The World We Know -Dorothy Grant

The World We Know -Dorothy Grant

What if the war was over, the good guys won, and nobody realized it? This happens in every war in history, actually, from the Battle of New Orleans after the war of 1812 to cut-off Japanese troops fighting well after the emperor had surrendered and WWII was officially over.

In economics, and in the marketplace, “war” is a metaphor, and nobody signs documents officially declaring the horse is no longer the main form of transportation, or the calculator as dominant over the slide rule. Even today, there are still cobblers, typewriter repairmen, watchmakers, and small family farms who have a small niche carved out while the world has fairly well shifted to mass-produced goods as a standard.

Being human and liking neat beginnings and endings to the sense we want to impose on past events, we like to look for dates and markers to place the beginning and endings of eras. The introduction of the personal computer, for one. The first Kindle on the market. These aren’t necessarily when the market shifted, but they’re close enough to substitute, and to confuse. Kindle Direct Publishing started… when? 2008 was the first I heard of it, but the ever-unreliable wikipedia says it was in open beta in 2007.

Either way, less than ten years later, we’ve quietly passed a watershed moment and didn’t know it until Hugh Howey & Data Guy released the latest Author Earnings reports.

Amazon-imprint & Indie books now make up 60% of the market, and gross 40% of the revenues.

Yes, you read that right. More than half of all the books sold aren’t from the Big Five, or the 1195 other publishers of the AAP. Congratulations, indie writers, you’re not fighting to get in the market anymore. You ARE the market.

But change in publishing isn’t limited to the ebook market.

Last month, a self-published indie PRINT children’s book — a trade paperback — was one of the Top five print bestsellers in the US for over two weeks, selling over 29,000 print copies in its first week and hitting #6 on USA Today’s combined Best Seller List. (An oddly-timed rule change that same week by the New York Times Best Seller List kept it from appearing on the NYT List.)

But the exciting news for indie print books doesn’t end there. Walmart will very shortly be carrying a self-published book on its store shelves: Jamie McGuire’s Beautiful Redemption.

Both pieces of news disprove the outdated notion that a traditional publishing contract is necessary if an author wants to achieve chart-topping PRINT sales, or to see their print book sold on Walmart shelves.

Where do we go from here? Which is the way that’s clear? Still looking for that blue jean baby queen… (Rock on.)

Three years ago, the indie book market was generally compared to a gold rush. Like many a marketing fad, people thought the market would be quickly flooded, and the first authors in would make a killing, the major rush would make a lot but be unsatisfied compared to the killing the early entrants made, and the latecomers would struggle to make a buck at all.

Instead, several of the early entrants were spectacularly successful, and now are making a good living… but they also still have good covers, good blurbs, and promotion. (Joe Konrath may not have released lately, but people have released stories in his Kindle World. Their promotion effectively promotes his original books, too.)

Hundreds of people who followed them are now making a good to great living, and many thousands more are able to pay a couple bills, or go out for dinner.

Now, some people are comparing indie to early auto industry and the computer industry, where many small manufacturers started out. Only a handful grew by conglomeration, innovation, and economy of scale until they dominate the entire market. (This is also how the formerly Big Six came to be, in broad strokes.)

But those manufacturers came to dominate by economies of scale and logistics… and in the digital entertainment world, there is no greater cost savings to shipping a million songs or stories than one. Even with POD, there’s no cost savings to shipping 5,000 units instead of 12. (Now, if you know you’re going to be shipping north of 5,000 units at a single time, offset printing suddenly makes a lot more sense, and significantly reduces the cost per unit in return for a longer delay in the printing and shipping logistics, and need to warehouse the product. More on that another day.) Thus, the current state of the market.

Watch the market to see how it shakes out, because what happens now with Intellectual Property sales and marketing for songs and stories is going to be really, really interesting when applied to IP designs for household 3D printers. What will happen to the aspirations of centralized medicine and the insanity of health care regulations when your home printer can make a chip to diagnose your health, and tailored drugs to fix the issues? To the billions-of-dollars & euros fashion industry, when your printer can create the designs you download for wearing out the door in thirty minutes? Heck, what happens when the cartels lose control of the drug trade, because any printer can make a better, purer, controlled dose anytime they want? How would our society handle an end to the Drug Prohibition?

It may not be that amazing now – but there was a time when e-books were distributed on floppy disks. We mark that in the history books as the beginning of ebooks, though it was fifteen years before KDP really got going.

The future is coming. The world we know is already changing, whether we’re aware of it or not.

239 thoughts on “The World We Know -Dorothy Grant

  1. The KIng is dead! Long live the King.
    And about bloody time, too.
    Hey, I have a long love for the printed word, and the thought of kicking back with a good book on a chilly day, cocoa at hand, brings pleasures equal to having a cold one at the end of a long, hot day – somethings are satisfying by definition.
    But while it’s great to have a story in hand not dependent on power levels, the mature level of the paper industry rather limits further expansion.
    However, paper is made of molecules, made of atoms, made of electrons – and electrons can do more work than sitting placidly on a page.
    I have several hundred print books scattered around my home; I have several thousand residing on the 16G microSD plugged into my Android.
    he argument seems concluded on the basis of the scale you mentioned before, but one concluding thought.
    While electronic publishing has a great convenience, many of the ebooks I’ve read in the last year alone have nasty glitches. Missing text, garbled text, missing pages even. All things that turn a potential good read into a wall-banging expensive boondoggle.
    Electronic press has to reduce or eliminate things like this. I’ve experiences these problems on a variety of texts, including KINDLE editions, so finger pointing won’t help at all. Greater care has to be taken to reduce mistakes of this scope, or people are going to simply pull the plug and reach to a shelf.

    1. If you find a problem and notify the indy self-publisher, they will fix it and put out a new version that your Kindle will download. Even Big Pub sometimes pays attention if you contact them.

    2. While I only have a mere 250 ebooks, I have seen no ‘nasty glitches’ in any of them. Most of what I consider errors are probably typo’s (then instead of than), and frankly, I was seeing about the same number 3 years ago when I was reading ‘Big 5’ edited dead-tree books.
      Now, I have seen some Kindle Voyager issues with illustrations in some non-fiction, but with my current read of Hofstadter’s “I am a Strange Loop”, Amazon has done an outstanding job in the last software update, and except for a really poor refresh while ‘zooming’ an illustration, the Kindle does well once you stop panning and zooming.

      1. This – big house editing was falling off a cliff over the last ten years or so. I was seeing obvious typos throughout full size hardcovers from major authors in that time frame, not to mention stuff from lesser authors (I think the last Scalzi I forced myself to start had a bunch in the small number of pages before I gave up and walled it).

        I my experience typos and suchlike on paper were at a level similar to what I’m seeing now in aome lesser-edited ebooks, and most recently even the worst written stuff I’ve tried out were completely typo and display-artifact free.

        1. Since I started thinking in terms of building stories, I’ve been noticing that a LOT of stuff that’s professionally printed has… well, if it was shelves, it would be the bottom is an end-table, and then someone nailed boards to the side and made a shelf, but they used a different sort of wood that’s only been dyed to match the end-table. And didn’t strip the base, just put a coat over the whole thing.

          And this is from long running, major authors.

          The indy stuff I buy doesn’t have the same exposed joints, even the stuff I know didn’t have a professional editor anywhere near it– just various readers.

        2. Add to that, I can be generous and forgiving when you charge me $2.99 for an ebook with a few typos. I am not so generous when I’ve shelled out $15-$20 for your ‘professionally edited’ book. Now that we have established $3 for a bare-bones novel, I expect to see some *value* for my remaining $13+. The cover art might be better, but it certainly isn’t worth that much.

      1. The Britannica is *an* encyclopedia, but they’re not the only one. Somewhere I have a CD for Compton’s Encyclopedia, from the late 1980s I think… Microsoft even had their own encyclopedia for a while.

      2. I think Britannica printed what they planned to be their last printed set of books last year and have gone to electronic format; I don’t know how they get paid.

    3. The only problems I would call “glitches” in my ebooks is some rough formatting in free/nearly-free classics that have been put on Kindle. I’ve never run across missing or garbled text or pages. You have many more ebooks than I do, but still, one would think I would have run across this kind of thing by now. But not so.

    4. I agree, those nasty glitches you describe are unacceptable and should not happen in a properly edited and formatted e-book. What you are encountering is one of two things, either very sloppy editing, which does occur, or more likely bootleg books that have been scanned from paper, run through an OCR to digitize, then put up with little if any correction.

      1. One of my books came out really corrupted when I updated the cover of a book that had been out for several years. When I rechecked my master file, I’d somehow really screwed it up. I’d swear it was just typos and such changed since the first upload, but . . . Things happen with electronic files.

        But then I’ve had paperbacks with one section doubled and the next missing, and had to take them back to the store. Perfection is a nice ideal, and definitely something to strive for. But I don’t expect to find it in real life. Close enough to not be irritating, yes.

        1. Yeah, I bought a Robert Louis Stevenson collection many years ago that the cover was put on upside relative to the rest of the book, and I bought a Tom Clancy book a few years ago that the last chapter or so was missing and I had to borrow someone else’s copy to finish. It happens; people make mistakes–which is why zero tolerance is usually a bad idea (except probably with nuclear weapons).

    5. I have had an eBook I adored story wise (and want a sequel to) that desperately needed both copy editing and…well, whatever you call the other kind of editing (just editing).

      Which leads to a question for the multiple book indie authors here. What would you recommend a new to indie author have set aside for hiring editing and art per book. How many books’ worth would you argue they should have as available cash before they can reasonable expect the cash flow from existing books to cover the next?

      1. I did an article over on MGC a while back on this very subject.
        First and Beta readers should focus on continuity, flow, and readability. They look at the work from a reader’s perspective, identify any glitches, issues that interfere with the reader’s enjoyment of the writing. You really want these folks to be big fans of the genre you’re working in. They also need to be painfully blunt and honest. No doting moms need apply.
        Copy edit is all about grammar, punctuation, spelling, and usage. Old nit picking retired English teacher types excel at this. I’ve done it as a favor on occasion, but find it tedious and boring as you must literally go over the entire work word by word.
        As to cost, first and beta readers tend to be volunteers, paid with your thanks and a hat tip in your intro or closing. Copy edit is a special skill. I’ve heard quotes anywhere from a couple hundred to several hundred dollars for a full novel. There are some tricks that help to do your own copy edit. Probably should do a MGC post on that at some point.
        Covers and cover art are a subject in and of themselves. Stock art can be had quite reasonably, in the two digit range certainly, but then someone with a certain skill set has to incorporate that into a fully formatted cover.
        As a budding indie writer I would suggest you focus on the basics, create a solid piece of work and stay on the very low end with investment costs. Get your work out there for the vast reader pool to see to discover whether you have a potential fan base. You can always upgrade your covers later with profits from sales.

        1. i had an idea similar to this. found a company, organization, or guild (or call it something different) gather high school teachers and others under one umbrella. whose purpose is to copy edit, ect. having enough of them to use at anytime. (they do it in there spare time, getting a small fee, rather the grading another term paper for free.) a small surcharge for web site upkeep. editors get to choose what genre. nobody makes a lot of money, but nobody is out a lot of money. getting rid of publishers ( who take in 92%, holy crap!!!!!!! ) I know much more details need to be worked out, also this is being written at 3 am ( just got off work )
          those of you who have access to high school teachers (or others), ask if they would be willing and how much they would expect to be paid?

      2. I’ll do a blog post over at my place (Cat Rotator’s Quarterly) about my experiences with various editors (copy and style type) later this week or early next week.

    6. One of the most frustrating things that I have ever read was the paperback volume “The Hugo Winners” around the early 70’s. Halfway though “Exploration Team” it jumped about 100 pages to the middle of another story. This was not a damaged book, it had been bound that way. E-books are not the only books to have these frustrations.

  2. I hate to correct you, but your statement, “Amazon-imprint & Indie books now make up 60% of the market, and gross 40% of the revenues,” is incorrect. The article you cite is about ebooks, not books in general. It’s also very specifically about Kindle ebooks, as the intro line above the first graph says: “We charted the AAP’s true share of the US Kindle ebook market over the last 18 months, in each of our seven AE data sets.”

    It’s still a remarkable accomplishment.

      1. I’m at about a 65% – 35% split, regarding Amazon and non-Amazon retailers. It takes time to get traction on the other sites, as well as networking and looking out for merchandising opportunities. But Amazon is definitely not the only game in town.

  3. Being human and liking neat beginnings and endings to the sense we want to impose on past events, we like to look for dates and markers to place the beginning and endings of eras.

    One of the few things that offers a possible ‘neat’ end date is the founding of the United States of America. One can point to the nearly simultaneous deaths of the last two major revolutionaries, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams on the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. As if this were not strange enough, Benjamin Rush, another of the founders and a friend to both, had related in a letter to Adams that he had a dream in which the two great leaders would die at the same time. Historians of the period often comment that if someone were to have written a fiction where such had happened people would say it was unrealistic.

    Now when the revolution began, the answer to that is none to certain. From 1776:

    John Adams: King George has declared us in rebellion, why can’t we?

    Even before King George had declared to Parliament that the colonies were in rebellion in 1775 there had been various incidents that led to the Kings statement.

      1. There are those who refer to Madison (who died in June of 1836) as the last surviving founder. Although born in 1751, and therefore not much of a player in the revolution itself, his roles in the Constitutional convention, as the author of The Bill of Rights and one of the authors of The Federalist Papers arguably emplaces him in that pantheon.


      2. It has been over 70 years since the government declared that it could regulate how much wheat a farmer could grow for his own usage under the interstate commerce clause. Their logic was making something for yourself meant you would buy any and thus affected interstate commerce. The SCUS upheld this in Wickard v. Filburn.

        Compare that to any of the acts leading to the Revolution and tell me it is minor compared to them.

        How long do we have to allow that kind of thing before we’re not impatient? Yes, unlike them we have representation in Parliament (Congress being the equivalent) but how long must we wait for such representation to be meaningful?

        Earlier this year you said in ten years if nothing changed you’d agree with abandoning the GOP as a vehicle for change. You’ll have to accept my apologies if I’m reminded of O’Conner’s ruling that affirmative action only needed another 25 years to work (having been in place that amount of time already thanks to the SCUS upholding it) before we could declare it unConstitutional.

        I don’t want revolution because they end badly after a lot of death in between but the more people think that things will end badly, revolution or no, the more they decide to take their shots while going do (see Trump, Donald).

        While I don’t care much if we just let it collapse in 20 years having been locked out of the future as not worth having there and liable to be dead by then, I have yet to understand those who do have a stake in the future wanting to punt until revolution is inevitable.

        /rant off

        1. We no longer have wage and price controls and a million other socialist encumbrances. We ARE fighting back, and once the massive media influence is gone will fight better. Be of good cheer.

          1. We need to do something about the darn educational establishment, too. Yes, home schooling, charter schools, school vouchers, etc. help but they’re not enough to keep the bulk of the children away from the statist indoctrination. Afterall, the parents taking advantage of these are usually already more likely to be aware of the problems and if of the right mindset working to mitigate statist indoctrination from government-run schools. Its the LIV types, who may be oblivious to the statist/totalitarian/SJW propaganda government schools call education, whose children are most prone to corruption by the education establishment (Big Ed).

              1. When we began home schooling here in NC a couple decades ago we observed attendees at the state home school fair (the Dealers’ Room there is a great place to find good reading at good prices, BTW) our observation was that two groups comprised the primary population: Christian Conservatives and Hippy Liberals (mostly from around Asheville, seat of Buncombe County from which comes the word “bunkum,” a tradition which still holds).

                Both being groups highly sensitive to government diktats about what constitutes value and contributing to society.

                I gather that home schooling is increasingly a path for suburban middle- and upper-middle-class families concerned over such claptrap as Common Corpse and incompetent union legacies. The more the process becomes normalized and its results obvious the harder it will be for the Education Industrial Complex to maintain their rearguard (heh) actions.

                1. Yes. That’s all we found when we homeschooled Marsh, but when he got to tenth grade about 80% of his classmates were attending school for the first time, and none of their parents were either very religious or hippies. They just got fed up with the available edumacation.

                  1. From the inside, it’s hard to tell the difference between “school” and “public-funded daycare.”

                2. There’s also the “kind of stumbling into it, backwards, because your kid is basically teaching herself.”

                  My job with the girls so far is to force them to do the parts they DON’T want to, and correct the stuff they do.

                3. There is also the child abuse that goes on in public schools. Just making boys sit still all day is abusive, but then there is suspension for the pop-tart gun, suspension for a butter knife in your car, suspension for wearing an American flag T-shirt, suspension for having an aspirin. Of course, sex education and abortions for teens without parental notification are considered acceptable. Saying ‘God bless you’ when some one sneezes is not.

                  1. did you see the report, as part of No Child Left Behind, that concluded that one out of ten school children are sexually abused by the staff? Remember the hoopla about that?

              2. Second point: colleges and universities increasingly are not just accepting but actively recruiting home schooled kids, having discovered that they are less prone to going feral when unleashed from the factory mode of K – 12.

                1. Yes. Seen this ourselves. We laughed so hard when ds #1 got letters from Hahvahd and Yale, among dozens of others.

            1. yes, this. We homeschool and its growing, but still way too many of our kids’ peers are effectively dis-educated. And so many of their parents, too.

              1. My biggest concerns are that so many of the parents don’t realize how badly their children are being “educated,” nor that their children are being indoctrinated into a statist, anti-American, anti-Western, anti-capitalist-if-not-outright-socialist, world view by the schools. Almost worse, though, some of them do realize the latter, but were so conditioned by it when they went through it themselves that rather than see it as harmful indoctrination, they see it as normal, proper education.

                1. There have been many hard working parents who pay to send their children to private schools with excellent reputations in order saving their children from the pitfalls of public schools only to have them come home and wax poetic about what their Marxist and Progressive teachers and what they are teaching them.

        2. Wickard v. Filburn was a bit more complicated than that– it upheld that a guy who made an agreement with the government to grow X amount to get permission to grow it, couldn’t grow 2X+ and claim the X+ shouldn’t count because it was for personal use.

          If what I could find about the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938 is correct, then Filburn screwed the pooch because HE GOT A FEDERAL SUBSIDY.

          The AAA before that one was challenged and struck down; his greedy trick of “but I was selling local/it was for personal use” (various articles say both ways) meant that the one that re-instituted a bunch of stuff got challenged and supported. All because he wanted public money, but didn’t want to hold up his side of the agreement to get it.

          1. Sadly it is veiwed as the basis for FLSA enforcement, and federal minimum wage.
            So, as case law, it doesn’t matter what actually happened any more, as far as enforcement stands, it it what it has come to mean.

      3. Of course, without the “burn-it-all-downers” then, like Patrick Henry and Sam Adams, or Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, and even The Donald today, to create the necessary “facts on the ground” like the Boston Massacre and Boston Tea Party, the gentlemen (and women, now) crying “Peace, peace” would still be (and still are) “tsk, tsk” ing about those “hobbits” and “wacko birds” who are just so angry….

        1. Although Samuel Adams was willing to align himself with more radical people than himself, such as Thomas Paine, in order to achieve his goal of independence, he was a conservative Presbyterian and a believer in rule of law. (People are complicated beings…)

          1. Trump is working hard on a cult of personality. So far, his spiel is very similar to Vladimir Putin’s.

      1. 1763 — Proclamation of 1763; Sugar Act; Paxton Uprising in western Pennsylvania
        1765 — Stamp Act; Sons of Liberty founded; First Non-Importation Agreements
        1766 — Declaratory Acts, 1766
        1767 — Townsend Acts; Second Non-Importation Agreements
        1768 — Massachusetts Circular
        1770 — The Boston Massacre
        1771 — The Battle of Alamance (North Carolina)
        1772 — British ship Gaspee burned in Rhode Island; Committees of Correspondence Formed
        1773 — Tea Acts; Boston Tea Party
        1774 — Intolerable (Coercive) Acts; First Continental Congress
        1775 — Lexington and Concord; Fort Triconderoga seized by continental forces; Second Continental Congress; George Washington sent to command continental forces outside Boston; Bunker Hill; Congress adopts ‘Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking up Arms’; King George III, addressing Parliament, proclaims colonists in open rebellion

  4. An oddly-timed rule change that same week by the New York Times Best Seller List kept it from appearing on the NYT List.

    The grey lady wishes to deny with both hands that the times they are a’changing? Surprise! Surprise!

      1. The NYT list is really “New York Times What-We-Like-As Best Seller List”. Back when it was them and Barns and Noble/Waldenbooks they could get away with lying. Now with Amazon and their ranking based on purchases, the NYT is revealed as the fraud they are.

    1. Not the first time, either. I remember them kicking the Harry Potter books over to the kiddie table when they were running 1,2, 3 in the fiction list. (And later, off the children’s list to a newly created “children’s series” list.) These moves were driven by competing publishers, according to a NYT(!) story on the mess. No signs of embarrassment from the author…

  5. The analogy which occurs to me is that of the Oklahoma Land Rush: vast new territories opened for agricultural development, each stead limited by the amount of cultivation of which its author farmer was capable.

    Without a literary Dust Bowl, we must hope.

    1. I read somewhere that there was considerable archaeological evidence to suggest that the “dust bowl” was a recurring event natural to the terrain. Since “the plow that broke the plains” is a narrative which enhances the Political Establishment’s claim to be necessary, this isn’t discussed much.

      1. There was an event similar to the DustBowl in Southern Ontario. Much of what is now known as soil management and re-forestation was invented here to deal with the issue.

        Interesting piece of history that nobody knows about.

      2. You mean, gasp!, climate change without evil Capitalists to cause it? In a similar vein, I recently saw an article that indicated that overall, California has been in a very wet cycle in recent decades and that historical droughts are both longer and more severe than what they are currently experiencing.

        1. Yes, but California’s situation is not helped by having a human population *much* larger than a desert ecosystem can really handle…and helped even less by a government that wants everyone *else* (ie, Not California) to change their lifestyles/habits and send power and water to California…

          Pretty state (at least from the Bay Area northwards) but so, so full of craziness…

        2. … overall, California has been in a very wet cycle in recent decades …

          (Glances at recent governors and legislative majorities of California. Contemplates California delegates to the Federal government.)

          You said a mouthful there, bub. “Very wet” indeed. Downright soppy.

          1. I’m *from* California. When the USAF rotated my Dad out of California it was to various bases in the South. The cultural shock was considerable.

            Most of my youth I was marking time until I could go home. And then I realized that “home” wasn’t there any more. The People’s Republic of California didn’t want my cars, my guns, or my politics. After some travel, I realized that Arkansas wasn’t nearly as bad a place as I had thought, though we very nearly relocated to Colorado Springs in the 1990s.

        3. I know that you can reduce how nasty a drought is by having a lot of agricultural use in an area– cools things off a bit, and keeps the ground from drying out so much that the rain doesn’t come back.

          Got to see first hand what “water conservation” that focuses on shunting water into the river or only using the absolute minimum on crops does– the put all the irrigation ditches into pipes, and the wells started going dry. The trees died. The plants changed.

          And now the fire comes, strong and nasty, every year.

          Even when the rain hasn’t been that much different than before, the water is being dumped into the river because the tribes and environmentalists want to “save the fish.”

          1. It is a little outside the general field of books discussed here, but in one of the CJ Box Joe Pickett novels* there is a wonderful 1 – 2 page diatribe about the history of the Federal bureau of Land Mismanagement.

            I believe it was the one set in Yellowstone Park, Free Fire.

            *Mystery series about a Wyoming game warden. Excellent reads, no particular political bias beyond recognition that government (FS&L), corporations and individuals often have agenda beyond the general health and welfare of our environment. From Box’s web site:

            Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett has now been the protagonist in thirteen novels, starting with Open Season in 2001. Over that time, he’s taken on environmental terrorists, rogue federal land managers, animal mutilators, crazed cowboy hitmen, corrupt bureaucrats, homicidal animal rights advocates, and violent dysfunctional families. Joe has matured, lost some of his innocence and naïveté, and committed acts that continue to haunt him. But through it all, he has remained true to himself and his family. And even when he knows that pursuing justice will bring the community, state, and his superiors down on his head, well… he just can’t help it.

            About Joe, the New York Times once wrote, “…Box introduced us to his unlikely hero, a game warden named Joe Pickett, a decent man who lives paycheck to paycheck and who is deeply fond of his wife and his three daughters. Pickett isn’t especially remarkable except for his honesty and for a quality that Harold Bloom attributes to Shakespeare — the ability to think everything through for himself.” I still like that. I’ve been surprised and gratified how the character of Joe Pickett has resonated with readers across the country and around the world.

            The character of Joe Pickett is, in a way, the antithesis of many modern literary protagonists. He’s happily married with a growing family of daughters. He does not arrive with excess emotional baggage, or a dark past that haunts him. He works hard and tries, sincerely, to “do the right thing.” He doesn’t talk much. He’s a lousy shot. He’s human, and real, which means he sometimes screws up.

            Nice change of tempo from SF/F and very pleasant reading. Were it SF it would definitely surf the Human Wave.

            1. I believe my mom refers to him as “that one that’s not stupid.”

              Since she’s got some 45 years of dealing with both sides of the equation involved, that’s rather high praise.

          2. It depends on many things. Here it’s illegal to irrigate from rivers, and all irrigation is surface water or aquifer. There’s been a move toward less water by using low-pressure irrigation. The reason is two-fold: To reduce water usage and fuel/electricity expense.

      3. We’re actually currently in a dust-bowl style pattern. (Fairing much better than the last go round thanks to quite a few improvements such as windbreaks and some improvements to agriculture, but also other smaller things.) It LOOKS like we might be coming out of it, this year was the wettest it’s been in almost 100. We’ll see how next year goes. Some of the farmers had cut their windbreaks down so they could use that land… the ones that did had dustbowl type issues over the past several years. The ones that didn’t… didn’t. Now there’s some tyring to figure out what to replace the cedars with without killing the windbreaks. (The cedars tend to explode in fire season out here.)

        1. (The cedars tend to explode in fire season out here.)

          Uh… wow. I did not know they could do that.

          That does seem like a good reason to investigate possible substitutes.

          1. Literally soaked in pine pitch and with an incredible surface area due to the needle like leaves. Add in drought conditions and a spark and instant torch. Not actually an explosion, but damned near so.

            1. And add to that the fact that unless the tree is completely down and open, the interior may be burning long after the rest of the fire has stopped which leads to high probabilities of the fire reigniting.

          2. I worked rural fire a couple of years, and junipers are much the same. Great firewood, but I’m ruthless in getting rid of them. I get a bunch growing just below a pine branch from the birds. Some of them get quite drunk off fermented berries. Late fall can be interesting.

              1. Yes. If it has orange and yellow stripes in it, it’s juniper, though it’s known as cedar in most of the USA. “Real” cedar is solid red.

                The confusion is probably because juniper smells enough like cedar for most people.

                My dad used to make some gorgeous furniture out of juniper.

                1. And they’re both a massive firehazard during drought years. Which is a problem because we need the wind breaks but we DON’T need trees that go up like torches throwing bits of wood and bark off in the process. Tis a conundrum.

              2. Had a “wait…what?” reaction– love this place.

                I learned stuff!

                Alright, that Juniper is in the same family (Cupressaceae) as cedar isn’t a BIG thing, nor is that “cedar trees” back east aren’t “real” cedar, they’re a variety of juniper, but hey.

                Now I can be all smancy and talk about using cedars for my Christmas trees when growing up.

                1. We like to cut eastern “cedars” for firewood as you can burn them when green – so much flammable resin in them! They also make the house smell wonderful when we use them in the woodstove.

                  1. I grew up with “junipers” as the weed-tree– no limit on cutting them, and as you point out any curing time is for ease of cutting, not for how to burn.

                    You do have to look out that you don’t turn the stove actually red, though. Saw that once.

                  2. The problem with that and most of the conifers, such as pine, is that all that flammable resin will creosote your chimney, and if not cleaned off that stuff can burn “unexpectedly”. This is Not Fun.

                2. Heh. Cedar trees cut from the woods and stuck in a trash can filled with dirt used to be the Christmas tree of choice around here. Yes, it was the juniper kind. Never thought about it, but the scientific name is juniperus virginiana. Makes great cedar chests.

                  At one time it was also the ornamental tree of choice for cemeteries. It was often planted at the head and the foot of the grave. Drive by a field with a large square of cedars in the middle, and it’s probably a cemetery.

                3. That’s the kind of thing you get when you have a blog, mailing list, etc. where the moderator lets topics wander. Sarah made her presentation, people commented on it, discussion continued off on various tangents, everybody wins.

                  Some people just can’t *stand* that sort of thing. [shrug]

              3. I stand (well, sit) instructed. [grin]

                In our portion of Oregon, just east* of the Cascades, we get both juniper and Western Red cedar. Juniper is a good firewood and popular for fence rails, but it’s tough to use as dimensional lumber. WRC is the big deck and outdoor furniture wood, being light, relatively strong and straight grained. Real Cedar is rare right here, but you can find the odd tree in the hills. Real Juniper can be found in the warmer areas, I live in the dividing zone between it and Ponderosa pine. South facing slopes, Juniper, north facing, Pondo. Both juniper and cedar are rot resistant, but the local varieties smell different to me. I get grade school flashbacks when I cut cedar…

                I suspect a cedar tree would torch off the same as a juniper.

                [* Eastside crazies run more to the redneck side; SJWs are encouraged to stay west of the Cascades.]

      4. The dry conditions of the Dustbowl do appear cyclic. Keep in mind, though, that farming, circa pre-Dust Bowl, made heavy use of dust mulch and powering to conserve moisture.

        Dust mulch is exactly what it sounds like. The idea is to break up several inches of the soil into a powder. It’s thought – or was thought – that by breaking down the capillary path from the soil to the wind, you can cut water loss through evaporation. At the same time, the dry soil serves to help cut down on weeds. It does seem to work. In the wetter East, we used dust mulching, and I’ve used it during drought in my garden. After a rain, you go back out and break the crust that forms on the soil, and with bigger rains you make the dust mulch all over again. Midwesterners will have to comment but I think out there may have included turning the soil to get it below the dust mulch.

        So, when the Dust Bowl dry conditions occurred, you had field of dust mulch exposed to the wind. Guess what happened.

        Today there’s different farming techniques, such as no-till, that helps preserve the integrity of the soil. Back then, though, no one knew any better. Dust mulching was considered a best practice until the Dust Bowl hit.

        1. First you lister (use a turning plow), then break the clods, then dust mulch. And after every rain, you renew the dust mulch. It does work, even in semi-arid regions . . . until the wind blows and you get a long drought. The pattern of the 1930s was similar to the 1850s, with the difference that the dust in the 1850s only seems to have traveled as far east as Ohio (that I can document with 100% confidence). And nothing had been plowed west of a Wichita – Oklahoma City-Ft. Worth line. During the 1930s and ’50s, again, areas that had NEVER been plowed blew, because that’s what happens with the native bunch grasses.

          *looks down* Is someone missing a soap box? You can take this podium too, but I’ll keep the lecture notes.

  6. Might I suggest the parallel of the blogisphere? We now have a new world of editorialists. Once upon a time you could buy a press and start up a paper, but as costs to produce rose consolidations occurred. Then, to become an editorialist you had to find papers that wished to syndicate you. Now you simply have to find an audience in the interwebs.

      1. Considering the quantity of illiterates the public school system is graduating, the overall audience may be getting smaller. When illiteracy reaches the level of innumeracy in this country, we are all in for big trouble.

        1. That is an all too real possibility and depressing to consider. Particularly when you think about the various scenarios to which it might lead.

          1. I’m not sure. On the one hand, you’ve got the ‘kids are illiterate’. On the other hand, you’ve got the ‘kids are glued to their smartphones’. So, are they texting and stuff on the smart phone or are they illiterate?

            I’m gonna go with literate enough to text and puzzle out ‘Install’, ‘Play’ and various other words, which means they’ve got some basic grasp of the meanings of letters and can struggle through longer material if sufficiently motivated.

            1. I would say “functionally illiterate” rather than straight-up illiterate. It isn’t that they can’t read at all, it’s that they have tiny vocabularies and no sense of proper grammar or usage. And it becomes all about the feels, and baby talk. Drives me bugnuts, and I am not that old.

              1. It’s also important to make the distinction between “illiterate” and “have no interest in reading whatever drivel the intellectual Left thinks they should”.

                  1. From what I’ve seen of text abbreviations, they pretty much demand a grasp of the principles of phonics, even if not the specifics of it. So the idea of decoding letters into sounds is there, in spite of the best efforts of the whole word proponents. Which seems to be the basic requirement to learn to read for most people.

                    1. Unfortunately my older son thinks all the language SHOULD be phonetic, with hilarious results. His brother spells very well, because he learned to read by writing, but no one knows how Robert learned, we only know he was reading before 3. I understand spelling oddities are normal in these circumstances, or at least as related by Agatha Christie.

                    2. Phonics works fine when you’re puzzling a complete word into phonemes.

                      It’s not really a reversible process when you’re trying to create words starting from a random jumble of letters.

                    3. There is much of that in texting, though hardly original to it. Sure, quick notes might have such things, but the huge payoff in data compression isn’t on paper, or a phone. When you’re at only a few words per minute with the telegraph key (or keyer device), easy compression is an obvious win.

            2. They may be “literate” in their in-group, but they’re not capable of writing in (or apparently understanding) English.

              I’ve had the misfortune to work with that sort of people in a business environment. No, I’m not going to try to figure out what their hip-hop txtspk gibberish might mean, this is a business, not a discotheque. Every machine in the place as a word process and a spell checker. I found their insistence on sending business mail in a made-up patois to be annoying and disrespectful.

              Mid-management felt I was the one being disrespectful – of the “disability” of various co-workers. Their disability apparenty being a refusal to use a spell checker.

              Seeing that this was a no-win situation, I simply made a macro to reply to every gibberish message with “Your message seems to have been corrupted in transmission; please resend or contact the email administrator.” For some reason that made them even angrier.

              No, I wasn’t a particularly good fit as “corporate sarariman.”

              1. I was told I wasn’t allowed to tell the people working for me that they had to use upper/lower case in all communications instead of all caps. They all had an associates or equivalent in college courses to get the job they had. Since I wasn’t allowed to supervise, I gave up my supervisor job rather then deal with the headaches. That was in a state bureaucracy.

                1. I think back in the early 80’s there were still teletype machines and those old monochrome green terminals (usually connected with a 300 baud acoustic modem) that could only type in all caps. Those were at least excusable. In this century, no.

                  1. I learned to type on teletype (telex) machines in the 1970’s during my military service. I can still remember the excitement when, in 1978, we upgraded from a 300 baud modem to a “blazingly fast” 1,200 baud modem!

            3. I remember a long-ago discussion with a teacher (I think it was John T. Gatto at the state home school fir) who distinguished between basic literacy and second-stage* literacy; the latter including the ability to write and express yourself effectively. I suggest what you describe is, at best, proto-literacy: possessing the basic concepts and tools but wholly undeveloped.

              *No idea whether he was a Doc Smith fan.

            4. The Daughter was one of only two students in her Freshman English class at University who could and did write in complete sentences. English was a second language for the other student.

        2. Actually, if illiteracy reaches innumeracy levels shortly after both will fall as the relevant populations died in mass auto-accidents from failure to read street signs.

          1. Have you noticed how many traffic signs use ‘universal symbols’? People can and do learn how to navigate the streets without being literate.

            1. The dashboard of my car – particularly the heater controls of my truck – have no text. Just mysterious heiroglyphics. I’m sure they meet some DIN or ISO standard and that it lets the manufacturer share common components across a world market… but I’m reduced to twisting knobs randomly to try to get heat. (WHY will it divert all the heat to my feet, but NOT to the upper cab, which is where my freezing hands are?!) The previous owner kept the manual, of course.

              My old Yamaha had a panel full of idiot lights. One of them clearly and obviously meant “insert rectal thermomenter.” The service manual said it meant “brake fluid low”. I don’t know how they got that…

              A company van had an icon of a menorah – one of those candle holders. That apparently meant “low tire pressure.”

              Through experience I have learned that the symbol “gravy bowl” has something to do with oil pressure. What gravy (or bowls) has to do with oil pressure escapes me.

              On Main Street there were two churches. There was a blue-and-white sign with hands and a dove; a variation of a religious symbol seen quite often here in the South. “CHURCH AHEAD.” I thought it was a peculiar thing to divert road funds for, but we’re dealing with the Highway Department, not reason.

              A few years ago the sign moved a quarter mile east. I mentioned it to someone. “Oh, that’s because the library moved.”

              “What does the library have to do with it?”

              “What’s what the sign means. It’s an open book that means ‘library’.”

              Freakin’ news to ME… I guess the big “LIBRARY” sign not far from it wasn’t enough. The dove sign, of course, had no words on it.

              Most of my electronic equipment no longer has the words ON or OFF, or even the rarer electrical symbol for an open or closed switch. Now they mostly have a straight line or a line with a circle at one end. That does “yoni” and “lingam” have to do with whether a piece of equipment is powered up?

              Then there’s my digital camera, covered with heiroglyphics which are SO OBVIOUS they’re not even described in the owner’s manual. At least, not in the English, Spanish, or French parts. My camera does a bunch of stuff, but damned if I know how to figure it out. There’s some serious processing power in there and a nice display on the back, it’s not like they couldn’t put English words on a help menu.

              Sure, we’re probably dealing with a few dozen symbols… but each one is a hassle, and the supposed meanings are usually so random or contrary the explanations just slide off my mind.

              There are some people who think in images and symbols, and it all seems “intuitively obvious” to them. I think in words, and much of their symbology is just random scribbles to me. Meanwhile, the symbol-thinkers seem to be determined to eradicate words from everything, until we’ll eventually wind up having to memorize ten thousand pictographs to communicate…

              Notice: communication has *already* failed. Sometimes bloodily. There’s a DOT-approved sign that shows lanes narrowing. Two lanes; one jogging closer to the other one. Two lanes all the way through. What the symbol *REALLY* means is “one of those lanes freaking ENDS” at 75mph in traffic… I’ve been caught by that one enough times that I remember it… most of the time.

              Of course, even text can fail if it’s improperly used. My local highway department puts up “EXIT ONLY” signs on some off-ramps. You would think that this would mean “an off-ramp with no matching on-ramp”, like I’ve encountered in parts of Kansas. But what ARDOT really means is “LANE ENDS”, which is the exact same number of letters, but a wholly different meaning when you realize you just ran out of road and there’s no room to move into the adjacent lane… just for kicks, ARDOT occasionally puts up “EXIT ONLY” signs where there’s not only a matching on-ramp, but the right lane is still there though several counties.

              1. Through experience I have learned that the symbol “gravy bowl” has something to do with oil pressure.

                Oh, I took that to be an oil lamp, such as found in stories of genies in lamps, and it meant that you would need a genie to get where you wanted to be if you didn’t get the car into service toot suite.

                1. I know what an oil lamp is. My wife collects them. She has lamps shaped like dragons, like flowers, like animals, and some plain old lamps with mantles, but I’ve never seen a lamp shaped like a gravy bowl.

                    1. So it’s a brand name? How does it work?

                      The ones on cars look more like gravy bowls; that one looks like something you might water plants with.

                    2. To RES. The brand name “Aladdin Lamp” aplies to something quite different. It was an improved kerosene lamp that came out in the early 20th century. My mother told fond stories of how her father had spent the extra money to buy Aladdin Lamps for her and her siblings to do their homework by.

                    3. WTF? How the hell am I supposed to know that?

                      [experiences urge to beat some “graphics communication” types with a stick]

              2. Of course, even text can fail if it’s improperly used. My local highway department puts up “EXIT ONLY” signs on some off-ramps. You would think that this would mean “an off-ramp with no matching on-ramp”, …

                I was contemplating just this on Sunday when driving home from meetings out of state.

        3. No. Sorry. More millennials read than anyone else. Because their social life is online. Yes, there’s youtube and chats and stuff, but a lot of it still requires reading. And reading is not arcane. People learn it. Now to ask them to spell properly or punctuate or express themselves well in writing is in most cases cruel and unusual punishment. BUT I’ll note this has been true for most of history. Even people who can read are usually very bad at writing.

          1. My best friend’s 21 year old talks with such a dialect that I have to ask one of his friends to translate for me. On the other hand, when he sends a text message, his grammar and sentence structure are top notch, an occasional misspelled word, but quite good.

          2. Remember, we are talking about the English Language, a flexible whore of a language who’ll steal pretty much any word or term that catches it’s fancy.

                1. I would say a bastard mugger.

                  “English is the result of Norman knights looking to get dates with Saxon barmaids and is as legitimate as any other fruits of that union.”

                  “All languages borrow from one another, but English chases other languages down dark alleys, clubs them over the head, and rummages around their pockets looking for loose grammar.”

                    1. None of the languages we derived from at the time — not Anglosaxon, not Danish, not Norman French — was not case based. So we couldn’t have stolen it.

                      That was an emergent property from English’s creole status.

          3. The Harry Potter series (counting all 7 books) has sold more than 450 million books… and that doesn’t even count all the people who got them secondhand.

            People will read if you give them something worth reading. If they want to read it hard enough, you can throw in all sorts of strange references and rarefied vocabulary, and they’ll learn in context as they go.

          4. No. Sorry. More millennials read than anyone else.

            I am not sure if this is to the credit of the millennials or should serve as a condemnation of everyone else.

            Maybe both. 😉

          5. Even people who can read are usually very bad at writing.

            My sister and I are doing family history research on our Czech lines, currently around the War of Austrian Succession when Silesia got punted between the Prussians and the Austrians like a soccer ball. I swear, the spelling of “Wisner” and “Johann” changed every single freaking generation.

        4. Judging by the people I deal/work with on a daily basis, many people are simply alliterate. They can read, they simply choose not to. This explains why I have to read a sign or instruction sheet out loud to the person looking directly at it, then explain what it means, when I’ve been watching them carry on a multi-person conversation via text. The only people who get a pass are the ones who come in talking loudly on their phones and asking questions of anybody who looks like they might know the answer. These people are obviously devoid of courtesy and basic sense and must be treated like particularly obnoxious children.

  7. You know what? I like books. I buy hardcover if I can.

    I like bookstores. I go to the Chapters in Ancaster ALL the time. Its a thing.

    More and more, I cruise the ever-dwindling SF shelves and find books written by people who hate my guts, telling stories about how much they wish I would just go die somewhere. Stories about characters I wouldn’t allow within 100 feet of me in case some of the EW! got on me.

    Or else they’re just BORING. Unreadable. As in, I can’t force myself to read the thing because its just nothing happening. Or the author breaks the story line so often with non sequiturs or characters making choices they just wouldn’t make I can’t continue reading because I’m rolling my eyes so hard.

    I’ve been forced to WRITE the damn story I want to read. That’s a lot of damn work, let me tell you. I’d love to see my story in a real book in a real store. But the more I look into it, the less likely that seems to be getting.

    What to do? Indie. Thank you, Mr, Shockley.

    1. Old tradition. Lewis observed to Tolkien that they would have to write the stories they wanted to read, since no one else would.

    2. More and more, I cruise the ever-dwindling SF shelves and find books written by people who hate my guts, telling stories about how much they wish I would just go die somewhere. Stories about characters I wouldn’t allow within 100 feet of me in case some of the EW! got on me.

      Went to B&N last night. Bought two SF/F books.

      The newest was from 1978, a reprint of Tanith Lee’s Vazkor, Son of Vazkor under its original UK title of Shadowfire. DAW has said they will release the third Birthgrave book and also listed the The Wars of Vis as upcoming. I’ve given away much of my Lee so I’ll be buying those, the later getting me up to 1988 (now if they’d only republish the Four-Bee books again).

      The older was from 1973, a reprint of Michael Moorcock’s The Oak and the Ram. The sixth book of the Corum novels (from 1974) comes out next month. I’ll be picking it up. As previously this B&N had as many six Corum books (two each of 3, 4, and 5) compred to three Ancillary Noun books (1 of 1 and 2 of 2) despite Hugo awards and nominations. This despite Moorcock having written at least four books in 1973 (in addition to the above, the prior Corum book, and the first two of The Chronicles of Castle Brass and thus a hack with no legacy as we were informed last week. I was happy to see release dates for Titan editions of the Cornelius books which I’ve never had a chance to read. Hopefully The Dancers at the End of Time are upcoming.

      Except for a Alastair Reynolds book (actually two) I saw nothing written since 1990 that interested me.

      I did buy one new physical book and nine eBooks last week but all were indie published. That’s not quite right. I did buy two Dover non-fiction reprints (on drawing).

      It’s amazing how little new fiction comes from a publisher B&N would dein to carry that I find worth reading.

      1. “It’s amazing how little new fiction comes from a publisher B&N would dein to carry that I find worth reading.”

        Indeed. We all noticed when Border’s went out of business, but it seems B&N management didn’t get the memo. How long before all those primo locations are as empty as the video stores? How long before the TOR-bots have no place to peddle their crapola?

        Otherwise known as, “when everybody has seized the means of production, commies are trying to find a new line of work.”

        Personally I hate reading the computer or an e-reader. Hate ’em. I want a BOOK. But I’m going to be pretty well screwed for books pretty soon I think. It may be time to invest in a decent paper-white e-ink tablet.

        1. I miss Borders. Until the very end when they quit restocking they seemed to have a broader and deeper selection. In science and math they stocked tons of Dover reprints of serious texts. In computer science they routinely had items such as Donald Knuth’s books.

          B&N was a poor cousin but because retail is all about turnover of inventory they were always more likely to survive.

          1. Yeah, that was what I liked about them, the selection.


            Went to the Borders store closing, and then to the nearest B&N to get myself accustomed

          2. Best chain bookstore I’ve yet encountered is the B&N outside of Princeton, NJ. As long as I can remember, they’ve always had a good selection of computer, science, and technology books as well as a great science fiction selection. It had all four volumes of Knuth’s The Art of Computer Programming – but not at a price I was willing to pay, alas. I walked out of there with a stack of books, which I began reading at an awesome diner before checking into a hotel before my cousin’s wedding. Regrettably, the average B&N’s I’ve been in elsewhere – here in Cincinnati, Indianapolis, in Denver, in upstate NY, elsewhere in NJ, CT, etc. are seldom so great. I guess it helps that location that it is within five miles of a variety of high-tech, science, supercomputing, etc. facilities and a major university.

            (The Philly steak place that’s in the same mall ain’t half bad, either. But if I’m back in NJ, it is either diners or pizza for me if I’m eating out.)

            1. I was in Australia when I found out Borders had closed. Not happy. I was in Victoria mall, looking for a bookstore. I was so excited to see the Borders sign. And then to find out it was closed. So I went across the street to Dymock’s.

              Books-a-Million, which seems to be more of a Southeastern chain, is pretty hit or miss, depending on location. The Barnes & Noble in Champaign, where the University of Illinois is, has a pretty decent selection too, for probably the same reasons. And the campus bookstores there are pretty awesome, too.

              For those close to Canada, I found Dymocks and Waterstone’s to have a lovely selection of things that would be hard to find in the States. Things like regional histories, for instance. Available, but not present for browsing findability.

              1. Books-a-Million, which seems to be more of a Southeastern chain, is pretty hit or miss, depending on location.

                Books-a-Million had a lovely store in our town, but they didn’t manage to make a go of it. They closed it on my birthday a few years ago. 😦

            2. It has been years since I visited it, but I used to enjoy the B&N in center city Philadelphia — it had multiple stories of books. The B&N off Tunnel Rd in Asheville, NC isn’t bad.

        2. The last time I went to a B&N, the book(s) I was looking for were not in stock. Sure, they could order, and with an extra fee (“join our club kinda thing) be delivered to my home. Or, instead, I could bypass the nonsense and order from Amazon. So I did. The next book I bought, I didn’t waste time and gasoline on B&N.

      2. > Went to B&N last night.

        They pulled out of my area some time ago. So have everyone else, for that matter.

        Amazon didn’t win. They’re just the last man standing.

    3. I used to feel this way. Then I inherited dh’s outdated kindle and started using it for books that were already in our account … and a convert was made. Now, when I read a dead-tree book, I resent the need to use two hands. The only dead-tree books I read any more are things we already have around the house and I want to read again before donating, books I want to keep in case of armageddon, and books I want to annotate. I still don’t like ebook annotations. I would never have dreamt that this would become my mentality/preference … shrug with eyebrow-life

          1. I’m going on a trip Friday and with the possible exception of Words without Music I’m going 100% eBook for the first time just for that reason.

        1. If you can’t read a standard HB one handed (I routinely do so while brushing my teeth), you need new hands. I admit that as I age and my thumbs lose their treads it has gotten more challenging, but it is still doable.

      1. Odd. I am exactly the opposite. I can read a paper book just fine with one hand. The tablet takes two; one to hold the tablet, one to work the touch screen.

        1. I put a hard-cover on my Sony reader for that reason. I can hold a book with one hand, but not the reader.
          I was in a sling for two months and reading was one of the things I could do between naps and eating.

    1. Pity the statists. If civilization doesn’t collapse, they’ll see the downfall of their fondest wishes. Maybe that’s why they so badly want civilization to collapse.

  8. Everything I read is either on the Kindle or the computer screen, not because I’m forced to, but because it fits my habits and lifestyle.
    Early this month I pre-bought the next three months of Baen releases, October, November, and December. That’s 21 e-books for less than the cost of three hard backs, or about $2.75 each.
    I’m an Amazon Prime member, but at this point do not do their book loaner thing. I’d rather just buy what I like. May change my mind at some point, but I tend to be a slow adopter of new stuff. Like to let others work the kinks out first.

  9. Has anyone else noticed the current ‘fad’ by several of the more left leaning authors writing about how impossible it is to be a successful indy / ebook author, and that you shouldn’t bother to even try being one?
    But if you do, don’t expect to make more than a few dollars…

    1. I think lefty authors can’t succeed at indie. I do not believe that is a lack of audience but something even sadder.

      The very mindset that makes them leftists inhibits their ability to do all the “publisher” stuff: covers, hiring editors, marketing, etc. After all, they’re leftists and they believe there should be a government publisher to do all that for them.

      1. Take a cue from talk radio. The lefties decided that they were going to go in and ‘break the backs’ of all those conservative talk show hosts. How is that working out for them?

        1. Well, Air America had one fundamental problem. By the time they began NPR had already converted their daytime programming from classical and jazz to liberal talk.

          It is always hard to be a gov’t approved and funded competition.

      2. Lefty authors can do all right at Indie, if there are market forces to protect them from competition (I leave the imagining of such market forces and how they would function as an exercise for the reader, but suppose they would involve licensing and formatting control) but it is harder to “push” Indie, harder to do in e-form than in book distribution and, as has been noted, “you can lead a whore to culture but you can’t make her read.”

        Lefty Writing tends to abrade the market, driving readers away rather than drawing more in, ultimately becoming a pursuit of diminishing reward. Eventually they can only make their mark by driving out competing writers, fostering a dog-eat-dog cannibalization of the market.

      1. Umm, the Author’s Guild is not a reputable source of information.
        it isn’t piracy or Amazon lowering author pay, it is the big 5 which pay authors almost nothing these days.
        Also, many of the people who belong to these organizations aren’t really authors. If you only publish a book or story every couple of years, you’re not doing it for a living, and your income shouldn’t be counted towards what an ‘author’ makes.
        So yes, author incomes have gone down, but that’s because 1) most of the people in these organizations aren’t working at writing for a living, and 2) main stream publishers treat authors like crap.

        Thanks to Amazon, I am making more than 90 percent of all authors published. Which is scary.

        1. There’s never been a time in which most writers could make a living at it. Day jobs have always been rife.

          1. I recall a musical group that did renfaires, and when not in ren-ish garb, one of the members of the group was wont to wear a t-shirt that read, ‘Real musicians have day jobs.’

            1. Heh. One of my younger former neighbors (about 14 years younger than I) graduated from college with a music degree. A month later he had a full time gig as a guitarist with a band doing US and world tours, and within a year or so he ended up on Letterman with the band (toward the back, but perfectly visible). But that’s kind of the exception.

                1. Very fortunate – and he both did a lot of networking to get the opportunity, and had a fallback plan. He listened to his parents when taking courses, so he had all the coursework that supposedly qualifies for teaching music in schools, plus years of experience offering musical tutoring on several instruments. One way or another, he’d probably have been fine.

              1. Actually, as an ameratur musician I know several people without day jobs in the sense of non-musical jobs. Session work, composing (especially for band, huge demand and a lot of “composers” are too good to do it), and teaching (which, again, a lot of musicians are too good to do) can make a complete career.

                What they won’t do is make you a rock start or famous.

    2. Shift in markets: The old market for these writers was The Big 5 Publishers, with the editors acting as buying agents, and actual readers as annoying and irrelevant downstream consumers, after the chain was manipulated solely to populate NYT Bestseller List. Now the market has shifted to Readers, and these writers are just not equipped to sell to this market.

      It;s no wonder they are so gloom and doom.

    3. Isn’t that the literary equivalent of the 5’3″ 118-lb high school kid complaining basketball baskets are too high, so the 6’5″ 225-lb guy shouldn’t even bother showing up for tryouts?

      1. Their problem is that in the marketplace of ideas they’ve only got the one. While they often repaint it, try new packaging and offer “New! Low! Price!” it still comes down to the same old worn-out, ineffective thing.

        The “one-size-fits-all” claim can only fool people for a while, after all.

    1. You’re quite welcome.

      You are now free to point, giggle, and wonder whether it’s this song or the 80’s lingo that lingers when I reply “rock on!” to people.

  10. OT (I’ll catch up with the conversation later): I know several Huns and Dinerzens will be in town for Salt Lake Comic Con. The Oyster Wife and I would love to get together for dinner with you all Thursday or Friday (She Who Lights My Life has another commitment Saturday night), and I’ll be lurking in the shadowy corners of the con all three days. If you’ll be there, please shoot me an email so we can work out time and place.

    1. We will be there Friday–6 kids 2 adults. Whether or not dinner is a wise plan I leave up to you . . . is there a very kid-friendly place to eat near/at the con? I’ll drop you a note later by email.

  11. I don’t foresee the future and don’t pretend to have a clue about it. I will comment that every great technological innovation saw a large number of start-ups that winnowed down over time. Every one. Tractors followed this pattern, as did telephones, radios, you name it. What brought them down wasn’t just issues of conglomeration, innovation, and economies of scale. Often it was quality. More than a few early adopters of tractors got burned with poorly made equipment, only to have the company that made it fold.

    The difference with indie is that all the factors of previous technological innovations isn’t with the authors, but with the vendors. I suspect we’ve already seen the crucial shaking-out. Given the nature of e-books, there will always be direct sales and small vendors, but this piggy-backs onto existing readers and apps, which are driven by the larger companies. Any upstart is going to have to challenge Amazon, not an easy task, and some companies, like Sony, are already out of the market.

    1. Part of the problem is most of those challengers want to BE Amazon, as opposed to just nibbling some of their peripheral sales.

      There’s no reason why HarperCollins, Penguin, or Hatchette can’t set up a shopping cart and sell to desktops, or peddle their offerings via Apple and Google to phone users, or make an app for Android tablets and notebooks. No, that wouldn’t be Amazon’s one-click-download, but there would be sales.

      “No, we’ll just stick to sending galleys off to the printer. We don’t even e-mail them, we courier them via oxcart…”

      1. Just for the record (and no, not an LP, nor a 45, nor even a 78, nor 16 {talking book} or cylinder) I have not been carrying, or pulling, galleys about. Should I look into this as a means of supplemental income? Hey, I ain’t above taking their money. Now, giving it back is another matter. }:o)

    2. I think the eReader itself will be a niche market in the end. Most eBook reading will be on general purpose tablets. Mine is on my LG.

      I think even Amazon expects that. The Nook is now a tablet and I bought my Nook HD+ as a general tablet. I read much more Kindle App than native Nook books to the point I called it my Nook branded Kindle. The newest Nook is a Samsung Tablet rebranded and Amazon has invested in the Fire extensively (and pushed the 7″ to $49.99 with a buy six for the price of five offer).

      1. You may be right. Tablets don’t work for my computer-ish stuff (don’t play the games I want to port away from my desk top, most don’t have enough ‘real’ OS to actually run the programs I want such as all my art stuff, so I can’t use one as a cheap Cintique). The only thing I’d, personally use a tablet for is an e-book reader. And most of the ones worth having are still twice what my actual e-reader cost me. On the other hand, I haven’t run into a lot of people who think like me in this matter. My mother has a desk top and her tablet and her e-reader (the e-ink/paperlike/non-backlit stuff is MUCH easier on her eyes than a screen.) My father does most of his reading on his tablet (though he has a laptop and a desk top as well depending on what he’s doing and where). Most people I know tend to have a ‘big’ computer and a tablet and their phone.

        I suspect the biggest factor in e-reader survivability will be people like me and people like mom, but that’s a guess.

        1. Tablets are making huge inroads in music production. I specifically bought mine to handle the upcoming version of FL Studio on Android and I love playing with Yellofier.

          1. What kind do you have? Most of my programs require an operating system. And if I’m going to need my laptop or desk top for my graphics, why bother with the tablet for my music?

  12. It would probably be an excellent secondary income, but you’d have to use a free-range ox fed only with organic fodder. And you’d need a jumbo-sized box of those blue plastic bags…

    1. Moo.

      I range as free as I reasonably can, thank you.

      Though organic is, as far as I can tell, a word that means “overpriced.” This is, of course, not the chemists’ definition of organic.

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