Dancing in Circles

Yesterday I had a moment of dissonance as I clicked on Mad Genius Club. [update: fixed link.] I stared at the title of the post, wondering if I’d written it because it was titled with a Leonard Cohen song title and then went on to quote Leonard Cohen.

Which is all great because it was Dave Freer’s post, and we’re friends, but I had no idea anyone else shared my tastes in music. Because that’s not one of the mind-sets of the groups I run in.  The groups I run in have other things in common.  But not too much.  We try not to group-think.  Some of the bigger, most fundamental arguments I’ve had have been with my friends.  We remained friends afterwards, but we test our perceptions of things fairly often.

If you go to the post, you’ll see it’s about mind sets, and how someone coming new to an established culture like, say, Baen might be shocked and think that everything that’s being done is being done wrong.

I didn’t have this problem, because I had arrived to most of the ideas Baen was using on my own before being bought by Baen.  Things like “the first taste is free.” And “pirates aren’t really a problem.” ( Yes, I fell for the whole “book pirates must be stopped” for about six months, then started thinking through it: both the fact that no one steals from obscure beginners and that the culture of piracy is such they’ll steal books they don’t read (for the triumph of breaking the code) and that they wouldn’t buy them anyway.  Also, that the loss to piracy is far smaller than the “loss” of traditional books to lending, used books and what I used to do of rescuing books from the trash in tourist hotels in Porto.)

However, particularly when ebooks were new, like 20 years ago, the technology itself was terrifying for most of the writers and publishers, who were not only older than I, but not the greatest of tech geeks.  Also new technology scares people, because there’s an entire new world of things that can go wrong.

But most important of all, everyone who was talking about ebooks and the horrible dangers of piracy was of one mind.  And those that had no opinion heard the entire group agree.

Publishing was a small, provincial group with no knowledge of anything outside it.  Traditional publishing still is to a certain extent.  They are a relatively small group of people, who constantly rub elbows, and who know very few people outside the field who read or have opinions about publishing.

There is an idea — or at least I’ve had this idea — that indie is challenging the claustrophobic nature of publishing, bringing new ideas into the closed world of the industry and exploding old notions.

But the more I read about … well, the field I work in, the more I become aware that my assumptions are wrong.  No, they’re not really changing their minds, or looking at evidence, or evaluating numbers.

Do you guys remember Dorothy Grant’s post on the publishing numbers?

Among other things (and if you haven’t read the post you should) she said this:

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.

Unfortunately (?) what those numbers also show is that the sales of ebooks from traditional venues are down — way down compared to paper books.  Which means… that traditional publishers should be reconsidering their idea of pricing ebooks way above paper books.  (Because I keep losing books in this house, I’m trying to go as much ebooks as possible, and I’ll pay the ridiculous prices for, say, Jim Butcher.  And PF Chisholm’s Elizabethan mysteries.  But that’s it.  And the last one only because I was ill and really depressed about it, otherwise I’d have waited and bought the paper book used, even though I’d feel really bad about not supporting a good series.)

I assumed publishers would be reconsidering their ebook prices because, let’s face it, they can’t count their sales of paper too well.  No seriously, the Nielsen numbers reflect maybe one third of books sold, and then they calculate according to some bizarre formula even they admit is not right.  (BTW for publishers like Baen who make a strong showing in comic bookstores  and other non-traditional venues, Nielsen is even less reliable.)

But they could look at reports and go “whoa, we’re losing money to indie.  How can we compete?  Perhaps not pricing ebooks higher than paperbooks?”

That’s what I sort of assumed.  Because I forgot they’re a closed shop: a small, provincial group of people for whom it is more important to keep the good opinion of their colleagues than to do anything else, including survive.

These are the sort of poisonous circles in which thinking for yourself, or not singing in the choir becomes a thought-crime.

In these circumstances, it becomes very easy to blame your failure on an evil villain — Amazon for instance — which is stealing your business by totally unfair methods.  It becomes very easy to join in rage-fests against this Emanuel Goldstein instead of contemplating what makes Amazon succeed and why your printruns keep falling.

And it’s really easy to think that the fall in ebook sales FOR TRADITIONAL PUBLISHERS is the same as a fall or leveling off in ebook sales.

[And I bet you not included in this is the biggest number of ebook “sales” in recent months: Kindle Lending Library.  I have a membership and I bet a lot of you do.  Sure.  If you read more than three books a month, even at 2.99, it’s a good price.  It also prejudices you AGAINST buying ebooks.  Because if you can read something that is included in your subscription, it’s cheaper, and we’re mostly broke, most of us.  (Trust me, I just read a modern retelling of the book of Ruth which was like having your back teeth extracted through your eye sockets, because I kept thinking “but it’s free.”  Okay, I need to control that.)

The thing is, even though those aren’t exactly “ebook sales” they are, because the reader is still paying money, and the author is still getting paid (and for some stories more than they’re up for.)  But none of that will show in ebook sales and most of those are not traditional, because traditional publishers won’t put books on KULL.  (Though some of the romance series now have their first book in a series on KULL.  I’m resisting the feeling I should buy the others, at traditional publishing prices.  I can’t afford them.  But it’s a great marketing technique.)]

Have you guys ever read books on “How to lie with statistics?” or “How to lie with numbers?”

Sure you have, and I’m sure traditional publishing house personnel have also.  BUT the numbers are telling them things they want to hear.  More than that, things their entire circle wants to hear.  So there’s no one to say “what if we’re terribly wrong?”  And “Have you looked at these other factors?”

John Carlton in his blog The Arts Mechanical did a round up on this subject.

He quotes this:

Publishers, seeking to capitalize on the shift, are pouring money into their print infrastructures and distribution. Hachette added 218,000 square feet to its Indiana warehouse late last year, and Simon & Schuster is expanding its New Jersey distribution facility by 200,000 square feet.

Penguin Random House has invested nearly $100 million in expanding and updating its warehouses and speeding up distribution of its books. It added 365,000 square feet last year to its warehouse in Crawfordsville, Ind., more than doubling the size of the warehouse.

“People talked about the demise of physical books as if it was only a matter of time, but even 50 to 100 years from now, print will be a big chunk of our business,” said Markus Dohle, the chief executive of Penguin Random House, which has nearly 250 imprints globally. Print books account for more than 70 percent of the company’s sales in the United States.

The company began offering independent booksellers in 2011 two-day guaranteed delivery from November to January, the peak book buying months.

Yep.  As far as publishers are concerned, their concerted effort at making ebooks too expensive is paying off.  People are going back to print.  Happy days are here again.  Build more warehouses and maximize your ability to stock independent book sellers.

Now I know some independent booksellers are making a come back, but I can also tell you there aren’t nearly the numbers of them there were in the late nineties before the chains killed them and before Amazon ate the chains.  For instance, in my old neighborhood there used to be a good indie bookseller, a good indie used/new bookseller, and a good used book seller.  Of those the indie used/new bookseller remains, but their bookshelves are now mostly used and keep shrinking.

I do confess that looking at that information above, and the fact publishers are building warehouses and expanding their paper book side, I took a step back.  Once I’d picked my jaw off the table, I checked my gut on why this felt not just wrong but borderline insane.

I checked things like Barnes and Noble toysellers, with an ever shrinking amount of BOOK shelf space; I checked things like the number of bookstores available in my area, or the fact that I — by any definition a power reader — haven’t been in a bookstore for… two? years, and the last one I entered (other than to pick up my friend and pet the store cats) was a used bookstore where I was buying a batch of $2 books.

And this is not because I have a grudge against traditional publishing — my grudge against them started as a reader, when series disappeared, and authors I’d just discovered had been unable to publish for three years — because I continued reading them grudge or no grudge until they made it difficult (and I still buy Butcher from Random Penguin.)  And this is not because it’s what I want to see: before I wet my toes in indie publishing, watching what was happening in traditional was like standing by and watching the Titanic sink all over again.  I used to tell my friend Charles “I’m at least still employed.  It’s like the Titanic is sinking, but I’m floating on the grand piano.”

Speaking of Charles, the aforementioned friend who works in a used bookstore.  The bookstore he used to work for went under, partly driven by Amazon offering used books.  (For a while there, and this is my perspective, not his) his former boss appeared to go nuts and start tossing every book that would bring in minimum payment, not realizing the money was in the volume of plus shipping money.)

His current employer, another used bookstore is opening up as a concert and event venue and other ways of supplementing income.  It’s a great bookstore, and it has cats.  BUT I’m going to guess that the volume of used book buying is down, even on Amazon.

I know my volume of paper book buying is way down, and not just because we’re moving.  Unless it’s research, or art or such, I’m not buying paper books.  (Exceptions made for books I expect to get signed or that are not in ebook.)

Of course, I could be atypical.  Except… except that the last three times I flew, I saw exactly ONE person reading a paper book.  In fact, in the last five years, that one person, reading what appeared to be  bestseller was the only one not flourishing phone/kindle/nook/ipad.

More interestingly, I keep seeing free bookshelves on craigslist, or really cheap ones.  For years, bookshelves were hard to find used, and expensive when you found them.  But not anymore.

AND most importantly of all, it’s impossible to beat the convenience of ebooks.  I actually lack the romantic attachment many people my age seem to have to paper books.  Yeah, yeah, the feel, the weight, the smell — bah.  I’m in it for the story. And ebooks have assuaged one of my constant fears from childhood: the fear I’d be left without something I felt like reading RIGHT THEN. I mean, I had enough to-be-read books at any given time, but what if I wasn’t in the mood for anything I owned.

I don’t know what the percentage of people is who drove madly across town to Borders, went in five minutes before closing, and bought out an entire shelf of material because THAT NIGHT they wanted historical.  Well, ebooks saves me that drive, but more importantly, I’m not restricted to whatever is on the shelves on that night. I can ALWAYS find something I feel like reading.

To addicts like me, who formed the backbone of the book business, THAT means ebooks win.  Every time.

And so, traditional publishers look at the numbers and prepare for the big rush back to paper books.

Because it’s their culture.  Because it’s the circle they dance in.  I can’t find any justification for their optimism — if you can call it that — but in their circle, it’s an article of faith.

Just as I supposed it’s an article of faith in the GOP that at the last minute they can slid in Jeb Bush and everyone will be happy.  Or amid the Democrats, it’s an article of faith that everyone is waiting for Hilary.  (No, not to confess to felony, but to be elected.)

It’s baffling unless you realize you’re dealing with cultures, not with people, not even with groups.  Cultures have these beliefs they tell themselves, and isolated cultures have really tenacious stories they tell themselves, and are really good at punishing dissenters.

So all cultures change slowly and isolated cultures — our so called intelligentsia, the publishing establishment, the DC habitues– change extremely slow if at all.  Because in their circles it’s better to be wrong in objective fact than to be thought wrong by their friends and colleagues.

And this is why politics — and entertainment, and journalism, and the arts — are downstream from the culture.

And why the culture can blind people completely to what is going on beneath their noses, while they go dancing in circles, merrily, nearer and nearer the precipice, until all that you can do for them is say the prayer for the dead.

Which is one of myriad reasons that in the end we win, they lose.  It’s also one of myriad reasons that despair is premature and infantile.

Be not afraid.  Stay the course.  It’s going to get very rough, but we can turn her around.  All it will take is sweat, tears and maybe even blood for much longer than anyone should be required to expend them.

It’s been done before.  We can do it too.

499 thoughts on “Dancing in Circles

  1. Funny thing is, if E-book prices came down from the big 5 they could realize a huge profit on some of their back list. i refuse to buy Bantam’s Louis L’amour backlist on kindle because of the prices. If they offered it on kindle at say $3 a pop i would shell out the money to buy the entire backlist. even though I own most of it in paper. I would be nice to have them at my fingertips when i wanted them. At the prices the charge? No WAY!!

    1. Bantam could but L’amour’s backlist on kindle for $1 a pop and make enough to pay half a dozen of their employees indefinetly. When over half the Bantam books you see on bookstore shelves (and almost all of them at places like Walmart) are L’amours and he has been dead for twenty years, and many of those books were written at least that long before his death; I have to wonder if they are making a profit off of any of their current authors, or if L’amours backlist is what is keeping them afloat.

      1. It has been a # of years and the explanation was kind of sketchy (contracts for the uncontractual sketchy) but as I was given to understand, the deal L’Amour’s agent made with Bantam required the publisher to keep all of his works in print and to maximize (I forget the details as to how) his display space. Whether such a contract would remain in force after his demise or even have existed in the first place (I have learned that things people tell me are sometimes not entirely true) is unknown to me.

        A little research expands the knowledge base and offers some potentially useful insights for other aspiring writers:

        Even before the height of his success in the 1980s, jealousy caused some controversy among other writers of westerns. A rumor was circulated that somehow Louis was a creation of his publisher, Bantam Books, and that they told him what to write and then gave him preferential treatment over other writers when it came to money and advertising. In truth, Louis wrote in a manner that was very much like stream of consciousness and it was nearly impossible for him to plan what was going to happen in one of his books let alone take direction from someone else. On several occasions, when financial pressures seemed overwhelming, Louis took jobs writing for various movie studios. In most cases he opted to return the money, no matter the financial hardship he was in, rather than struggle to write at the direction of someone else. He simply couldn’t do it.

        Even in the early 1970s, Bantam Books was still lagging in the area of public relations, it took a publicity trip to England and the exemplary efforts of L’Amour’s British publisher Corgi, to focus their attention on what could be done. For the most part the publicity effort that defined Louis’s career until the mid ‘70s was the work he did on his own, learned through hard experience promoting both boxers and his own book of poetry in the 1930s. Publishers then, as now, spent next to nothing unless they absolutely had to.

        The hard feelings seem to have culminated with the story that Bantam required independent distributors to buy titles in lots of 10,000 copies if they wanted access to other Bantam titles at wholesale prices, and that they kept all of L’Amour’s books in print at all times . . . thus forcing other authors off the racks in the Western sections of bookstores.

        “There were occasionally additional price incentives offered to distributors who sold certain amounts of the entire Bantam catalogue,” George Fisher, who worked at Ludington News in Detroit, the number two independent distributor in the country, remembers. “But selling Louis was often the way that a distributor could meet their quotas, because he was so popular. Louis wasn’t a problem for us, he was a solution.”

        The problem seemed to be one of jealousy and misinterpretation, writers with fewer titles and less popular books could get squeezed where shelf space was limited. But no publisher could afford to keep books in print that weren’t selling, the book stores would simply return them for a refund. Whatever the effect, Louis L’Amour was not the beneficiary of any sort of special, and exclusive, distribution policy.

        The essay also contains information about why L’Amour signed with Bantam: “Louis was looking to find a publisher who would bring out more than two of his books per year. His editor at Gold Medal lobbied to let him write more but management refused even though he was placing books with competing publishers. L’Amour had sold 14 novels, 9 motion pictures, and several million paperback copies before Bantam Editor in Chief Saul David was finally able to convince his company to offer Louis an exclusive contract that would expand to three books a year.”
        Op cit.

        1. I know when I started reading Westerns it was when I stationed at Kadena AFB 72-73. I was short of money and didn’t have my book collection with me so after I had read of the base library’s SF/F I looked for anything else to read. That led me to Westerns and the only 2 authors I really liked and kept on reading after Kadena was Luke Short and Louis L’Amour With Louis being my favorite!!

          1. Yep, L’amour ruined me for all other Western authors. The only other one I can stand to read is Luke Short, and some of those are much better than others. I believe (I recall reading somewhere, but don’t have a source) that Luke Short was a house name, and there were several authors that wrote Luke Short books. In fact I seem to recall that one or two of them failing to turn in scheduled books on time gave L’amour the opportunity to expand his yearly quota.

        2. “But selling Louis was often the way that a distributor could meet their quotas, because he was so popular. Louis wasn’t a problem for us, he was a solution.”

          Yep, forcing a bookstore to stock L’amour might have been highhanded of Bantam, but it is kind of like forcing a candy store to stock chocolate.

          1. Look how far we’ve come: Forcing distributors to take a popular product in order to make a profit vs. forcing distributors to take more profit and sell less product as a way to “punish” them.

    2. They’re not price discriminating well enough. McCaffrey’s Harper Hall trilogy *finally* became available in ebook — on Amazon, for $5/ each. I bought the first two immediately; I’d been wanting them in ebook for years. (The third? Eh, not for $5.) I see they’ve reduced the price of the first to $2.

      It makes perfect sense to price the backlist at full price *when they first make the ebook available* because they’ll get a few sales even so. But after a year or two, they need to reduce the price to what the non-fanatic market will bear, because that’s where the bulk of the money is.

      I think they’re being wary of the mp3 example in the wrong way. My sense of obligation to pay for ebooks plummets when the author dies. Doesn’t reach zero immediately – I do have concerns about an author’s estate – but 20 or 25 years after an author’s death, I have zero *moral* compunction about just torrenting his/her books if I can. (Legal compunction is another matter.) L’amour has been dead over 25 years. I haven’t investigated, but I strongly suspect (googles Lewis L’Amour torrent) … in the first page of google results, there’s a torrent of 7 Lewis L’Amour books, and another of 130 Lewis L’Amour books.

      High prices on books from an author nearly 30 years dead will drive people to download the books illegally. Then they’ll have the tools installed (to torrent, to look for torrents, and to manage their ebook collection on their computer instead of leaving it in Amazon’s cloud) and it’ll be easy, and people will be more likely to illegally download current content. This is an especially strong temptation because for most publishers, the torrented file is a superior product due to the lack of DRM (just check for viruses and delete anything that isn’t an ebook file when you’re done.)

      I have to wrestle with temptation to NOT break the DRM on any ebooks I check out of the library and just keep a copy, when the only reason I know how to break the DRM is that my purchases come with DRM attached, so I need to make sure I can break the DRM if I need to. (N.B. DRM on library books is good DRM; I’m supposed to only be leasing them – for free, at that – so DRM to enforce the limited period of my rights is entirely reasonable. DRM on electronic files that I PURCHASE is bad DRM.)

      As an aside, I just discovered the Kobo Aura H2O, which is water resistant (certified for 30 minutes of immersion in up to 3 feet of water — safe for the tub as long as you make sure not to leave it in a puddle when you’re done, but not safe for the pool.) I don’t read in the tub, but my husband does. Fortunately, much of our library is DRM-free to begin with, but we have a substantial body of purchases from Amazon which I would have to DRM-strip in order to copy onto a non-Amazon device. (Which I know how to do; thank you, Apprentice Alf — but I find it outrageous that it’s illegal to break the DRM necessary to move an electronic file that was marketed to me as a PURCHASE onto a new device.)

      1. My sense of obligation to pay for ebooks plummets when the author dies. Doesn’t reach zero immediately – I do have concerns about an author’s estate – but 20 or 25 years after an author’s death, I have zero *moral* compunction about just torrenting his/her books if I can.

        Personally, I’m in favor of Thomas Macaulay’s copyright proposal that copyright should not be extended to 60 years after the author’s death, but remain at a fixed term of 42 years. (I favor 50 years for the round-number effect, though.) And for the very same reasons that he gave, too. He was right about the effects of high e-book prices and how they’d drive people to torrents. And when you consider that he gave that speech in 1841…

        1. Why 42? You hang out in SF fan forums and wonder Why 42? By the second head of Zaphod Beeblebrox, what is wrong with you?

        2. Fifty years, author’s life +20-25, author’s life, a flat 30 or 50 for work-for-hire and something more for copyrights retained by the author … there are lots of copyright terms which make sense. Life+90 is NOT one of them

          I like Life+20-25 because that’s enough time for newborns to grow up; I think combining it with a flat term of 25-50 years for work-for-hire and other situations where the copyright is *transferred*, not merely *licensed*, makes sense.

          1. Or you get a special case, such as the recent extension of the rights to collect royalties for Peter Pan by the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children in London. From an article in Neverpedia on the Ownership of Peter Pan (http://neverpedia.com/pan/Copyright):

            The UK copyright originally expired at the end of 1987: 50 years after Barrie’s death, which was the term at that time. A few people started to take advantage of that, but there was no big rush to exploit the character. The biggest impact of this expiration was that GOSH could no longer charge royalties for performance of the play, which has remained very popular in the UK. This came to the attention of former Prime Minister James Callaghan (still a Member of Parliament), who sponsored a bill granting GOSH a perpetual extension of some of the rights to the work, specifically the right to royalties for any performance, publication, or adaptation of the play. This is not a true perpetual copyright however, as it does not grant the hospital creative control over the use of the material, nor the right to refuse permission to use it. The law also does not cover the Peter Pan section of The Little White Bird, which pre-dates the play and was not therefore an “adaptation” of it. The exact phrasing is in section 301 of, and Schedule 6 to, the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988:

            301. The provisions of Schedule 6 have effect for conferring on trustees for the benefit of the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street, London, a right to a royalty in respect of the public performance, commercial publication, broadcasting or inclusion in a cable programme service of the play ‘Peter Pan’ by Sir James Matthew Barrie, or of any adaptation of that work, notwithstanding that copyright in the work expired on 31 December 1987.

            1. I really don’t like the idea of a government being able to declare a special rule that someone has the right to money when another person tells a story, even though the rules say they don’t.

              1. In Britain you have the National Health Service. The funds lost by the expiration of the copyright of Peter Pan would have had to be made up somehow.

                1. ….and you can’t see how taking money from people for choosing to do a specific play to fund health care is even worse than socialized health care?

                  I know somebody here posted that story about either Daniel Boone or Davey Crocket going around glad-handing to get re-elected, and the old farmer explained he’d never get his vote because the famous guy had voted for a grand charitable symbol– but paid for it with other folks’ money.

                  Taxes, an unjust taking of IP rights….

                  1. Taxes, an unjust taking of IP rights….

                    Ummmm … excuse me if I misunderstand, but aren’t we talking about an unjust declining to take IP rights? Extended copyright means extended rights of the IP creator and designated heirs. From whom are the IP rights being taken? The general public? Sorry, I cannot concede the public having a right to mine somebody else’s lode.

                    A minor exception does not test the principle.

                    1. From whom are the IP rights being taken?

                      The commons.

                      Imagine there’s a park.
                      The city gives a timed lease for people to build whatever they want for X years, and they have absolute control enforced by the city; in return, when the time is done, the built up area becomes publicly accessible.

                      Then they decide that, hey, the folks who are charging for this specific area of the park– we’re going to let them keep charging, and we’ll keep providing the enforcement of that right.

                      The purpose of the initial protection is to encourage people to build up great stories– without locking others out of that part of the network of stories.

                    2. Twaddle.

                      Next you will be saying “He didn’t build that.”

                      The public has a perfect opportunity to disapprove this “taking” and assert their rights to Barrie’s intellectual property. They can turn their backs on the play and characters, rendering it without profit in its own land.

                    3. There’s a difference between “he didn’t build that” and “he created that entirely on his own.”

                      Doing the work to build a thing doesn’t mean you don’t owe on the materials used in the building, and the method we’ve come up with to do that– rather than the previous purely commons based setup, which didn’t encourage as much building– is to give someone exclusive use for X years, and then it’s generally available for other people to build with.

                    4. I perceive scant harm to Society by this singular de minimis exception.

                      Frankly, I am not sure I wouldn’t encourage more such, having observed the liberties taken with such children’s properties to date.

                      I s’pose once it is out of copyright we can look forward to Gregory Maguire’s take on The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, in which we discover that Jadis was actually a foully maligned defender against Global Warming.

                      I don’t need nobody, no matter how loving, including even Sarah (sorry, m’dear) writing a sequel to The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, either. Create your own damn stories and characters and if you must publish and profit from fanfic at least have the decency to file off the serial numbers. (Yeah, even unto P.D. James however well done I found Death Comes to Pemberley.)

                    5. I am not interested in living in a world where I am only allowed to make or read the stories which you, or anybody else, deems acceptable.

                      You don’t like it, don’t read it; you want to support a worthy cause, do it with your own money.

                    6. Oddly, I find myself remarkably uninterested in providing you the ability to pervert other people’s characters and stories.

                      There is an ample supply of folk tales to mine without corrupting Peter, Wendy and the Lost Boys, much less provide a back story explaining and justifying Captain Hook’s animus toward them (much less exploring his sub-textual homo erotic relationship with Smee.)

                      The burden on you of honoring this copy right is trivial; it was granted by the Crown and is within its authority. If you find it unbearable you have always the option of purloining that intellectual property in the name of the masses and calling it nationalization. As a precedent this extended copyright to the play has proven far less destructive of the principles you are advocating than any number of other abuses commonly seen and too embarrassingly numerous to list.

                      So it aggravates you; so what. The list of things which aggravate is too lengthy to get knotted up over so minor a a matter. Violate the copyright and enjoy the smug joy of being self righteous and principled. It isn’t likely they will take you to court.

                      Hell, considering the money being spent on cinematic adaptations of the story it isn’t even as if that extended copyright is a significant burden on would-be adapters. IMDb lists at least sixty-eight distinct presentations of the character, many of them multiples (such as Pîtâ Pan no bôken, a Japanese anime reportedly running 41 episodes.)

                      Frankly, I am more distressed over the “Work for Hire” denials of creator rights to Jack Kirby for his inventions of Captain America, the Fantastic Four, the X-men, the Hulk, Iron Man, Ant Man, Silver Surfer, Black Panther and so many others that the Wikipedia listing of his characters runs over 300 pages (wikipedia[DOT]org/wiki/Category:Characters_created_by_Jack_Kirby) and yet I recognize that under the terms of contracts which he willingly signed he was entitled to no compensation beyond the original payment.

                      The injustices of this world are beyond number; I prefer to focus on the non-trivial.

                    7. Oddly, I find myself remarkably uninterested in providing you the ability to pervert other people’s characters and stories.

                      It is not yours to provide or deny; you do not have the power or authority to control what others think, which is what would be required for you to “provide” the “opportunity” for others to “pervert” stories that have already been told.

                    8. Ah, sweet innocent lassie – ’tis you have demanded to be provided such license by demanding a curtailment of a granted privilege. As I’ve no capacity to “control what others think” I cannot have not denied your “right” to plunder another’s property.

                      I merely deplore it. Writers, even such excellent ones as P. D. James and Gregory Maguire, ought invent their own characters or pay tribute to those whose characters they have filched.

                      If you don’t believe it possible to “pervert’ a story already told you’ve never even briefly contemplated the X-rated version of Peter, Wendy and the Lost Boys.

                      You’ll understand that I take your demands as seriously as I do those decrying Tiger Lily as “cultural appropriation.”

                      Moreover, as the facts indicate. you’re complaining about something that just ain’t so:

                      The UK copyright originally expired at the end of 1987: 50 years after Barrie’s death, which was the term at that time. A few people started to take advantage of that, but there was no big rush to exploit the character. The biggest impact of this expiration was that GOSH could no longer charge royalties for performance of the play, which has remained very popular in the UK. This came to the attention of former Prime Minister James Callaghan (still a Member of Parliament), who sponsored a bill granting GOSH a perpetual extension of some of the rights to the work, specifically the right to royalties for any performance, publication, or adaptation of the play. This is not a true perpetual copyright however, as it does not grant the hospital creative control over the use of the material, nor the right to refuse permission to use it. The law also does not cover the Peter Pan section of The Little White Bird, which pre-dates the play and was not therefore an “adaptation” of it. The exact phrasing is in section 301 of, and Schedule 6 to, the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988:

                      301. The provisions of Schedule 6 have effect for conferring on trustees for the benefit of the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street, London, a right to a royalty in respect of the public performance, commercial publication, broadcasting or inclusion in a cable programme service of the play ‘Peter Pan’ by Sir James Matthew Barrie, or of any adaptation of that work, notwithstanding that copyright in the work expired on 31 December 1987.

                      This became moot in 1995, when a directive to harmonize copyright laws within the EU settled on 70 years for all member countries. (Most were already at 70 years, several were shorter, and Spain’s was longer.) Although it’s generally not accepted to take something that’s in the public domain and place it back under copyright, they did. So Barrie’s works went back under copyright protection (Peter Pan belonging to GOSH, the rest to his heirs) through December 31, 2007. The following day they became public domain again, with the provision that GOSH still gets to charge performance and publication royalties on the play within the UK.

                      There was some dispute with GOSH over just how broad their rights still were. They blustered about Lost Girls, a pornographic graphic novel by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie featuring Wendy Darling, which was published in the US a year or so before their UK copyright expired. Top Shelf Publications made an agreement with GOSH to hold off on publishing a UK edition until 2008, then went ahead.

                      [In the United States] the script of the play itself – which Barrie had continued to revise and add to – was not published until 1928, which meant that this version was still under copyright in 1978, when Congress extended the term from 56 years to 75. Which meant it was still under copyright when they did it again in 2003, to 95 years. The stage-play version of the story will not enter the public domain in the US until 2023. formerly used this as grounds to claim a blanket copyright to “Peter Pan”, which led to some confrontations. Canadian small-press novelist J. E. Somma and GOSH settled out of court over her sequel After the Rain, A New Adventure for Peter Pan. Disney was a long-time licensee to the animation rights, but published Dave Barry’s and Ridley Pearson’s Peter and the Starcatchers in the US, defying GOSH’s broad claim of copyright.

                      GOSH now acknowledges that the copyright for the novel version of the story has expired in the United States, and with it the copyright for the characters themselves. GOSH does still assert a copyright to the published version of the script, though they’ve expressed a lack of interest in pursuing someone who might include (copyrighted) bits from the play in an adaptation of the (public domain) novel. The film rights to the play have been licensed to Columbia/Sony (makers of the 2003 film) for the duration of that copyright.

                      So, as is shown, there is not an exception to standard copyright privileges for James Barrie’s work.

                      I find myself increasingly moved toward the perpetually renewable copyright, a principle which acknowledges both the creators’ rights and the public interest by requiring payment for retention of control beyond the common period.

                    9. Ah, sweet innocent lassie – ’tis you have demanded to be provided such license by demanding a curtailment of a granted privilege.

                      Exactly backwards– you are demanding that a granted privilege be extended.

                      The story was granted protection from others using it for a set time.

                      The creator COULD have kept people from using it, and profiting from it, by not sharing it– but nobody would be improved by that.

                      In a natural state, the story– once shared– would be out of his control, and he wouldn’t be able to get anything beyond either the immediate or what other folks’ decency granted him. Doesn’t encourage making great stories.

                      So laws were put in place to make it so that the author could BOTH profit from it, and keep the control that existed before the story was shared, for a period of time. Enforcing this isn’t free, but the cost is balanced by the eventual benefit from more and better generally available ideas.

                      You want to control your idea absolutely? Then don’t share it….and hope that nobody else comes up with the same idea.

                      Same as with how-to-do-things patents; you can either not let anybody know the idea- in which case it dies when you do- or you can show others and hope for the best.

                      Or… you can make a system where you show EVERYBODY how to do it, but you have the rights to use it for ___ time. The whole group pays for the enforcement of this privilege, but the whole group profits from the improved ability to build things up.

                    10. Didst ye ken nichts aboot the actual facts of the matter? There be no extraordinary license for young Peter’s pan, no extension exists. Ye’re tempesting over a tea pot, just like yuir average SJW weenie.

                      As noted, also, English Law has certain differences from that here in America, amongst which is grant of extraordinary privileges to and by the Crown. If ye so dislike their way of doing things why don’t you foment a revolution which rejects the Crown’s authority over you.

                    11. Didst ye ken nichts aboot the actual facts of the matter?

                      Starts on UK copyright expiring in 1987.
                      A politician decides that’s not right, and lets a favored group keep that which had already been returned to the public, as is the standard agreement for protecting the copyright.

                      You have accused those who disagree with your novel idea that a copyright having an ending (at least in those cases emotionally powerful to you) are enabling perverts (copyright doesn’t control thoughts), stealing (by the government not providing a service in perpetuity, at public expense), and now mistaken on the facts.

                      The facts being that the protection ended, and then was selectively extended.

                      Since you haven’t bothered to actually answer the arguments, and have now gotten down to the level of parody and insult in the place of reason, I believe I’ll stop this,

                    12. Starts on UK copyright expiring in 1987. A politician decides that’s not right, and lets a favored group keep that which had already been returned to the public, as is the standard agreement for protecting the copyright.

                      Having one of your reading impaired days? British law, British rules. So long as it remains their country they can do what they bloody well like.

                      The facts being that the protection ended, and then was selectively extended.

                      That privilege, one entirely within the legal authority of the government extending it, was later superseded by law and has now been brought into conformation with similar rights — a fact you apparently did not grasp.

                      You have accused those who disagree with your novel idea that a copyright having an ending (at least in those cases emotionally powerful to you) are enabling perverts (copyright doesn’t control thoughts), stealing (by the government not providing a service in perpetuity, at public expense), and now mistaken on the facts.

                      False and defamatory misrepresentation of arguments made. The idea of extending copyright indefinitely is certainly not novel, nor is the concept that absent such protections invidious use may be made of the copyrighted work (see: Lost Girls.)

                      The issue is not over control of what people may think in regard to the work, it is strictly limited to their ability to publish and profit from perversion (“the alteration of something from its original course, meaning, or state to a distortion or corruption of what was first intended.“).

                      How is it “stealing” to allow the holder of a right recourse to courts in order to enforce that right? Is it stealing for the government to allow you to deed your house and realty to your children and their heirs? Why do you accord intellectual property lesser status simply because you never imagined otherwise?

                      As for being mistaken on the facts … you are entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts. Your ipse dictum assertions do not constitute rebuttals and have not addressed facts asserted. Nor does your codswallop about “parody and insult in the place of reason” hold water, as you cannot proffer a single instance in which I have insulted you. Gentle mockery, acknowledged, but at no point have I tendered insult nor misrepresented your arguments nearly so foully as you have mine own points.

                      But if you adhere to your belief that you will stop replying with such calumny, I expect I will have nothing further to say.

                    13. “Ah, sweet innocent lassie – ’tis you have demanded to be provided such license by demanding a curtailment of a granted privilege.”

                      “Ummmm … excuse me if I misunderstand, but aren’t we talking about an unjust declining to take IP rights?”

                      Actually no to both of those. I’ll answer another of your questions to explain that.

                      “From whom are the IP rights being taken? ”

                      They are being taken from the public. As your wife stated above. “The UK copyright originally expired at the end of 1987: 50 years after Barrie’s death, which was the term at that time. A few people started to take advantage of that, but there was no big rush to exploit the character. The biggest impact of this expiration was that GOSH could no longer charge royalties for performance of the play, which has remained very popular in the UK. This came to the attention of former Prime Minister James Callaghan (still a Member of Parliament), who sponsored a bill granting GOSH a perpetual extension of some of the rights to the work, specifically the right to royalties for any performance, publication, or adaptation of the play.”

                      See the copyright had expired and it had become public domain. At some later unspecified date, the Prime Minister took it AWAY from the public and gave it to GOSH. If he had jumped through whatever legal hoops necessary BEFORE the copyright expired, in order to extend the copyright that would be one thing. But that isn’t what he did. What he did is essentially similar to eminent domain, he took something owned by the general public, and said they could no longer use it, then gave it to GOSH. Essentially this would be like the President taking Glacier National Park, which is publicly owned, and giving it to Greenpeace.

                    14. You might note that I also quoted the relevant passage and observed that under British Law, our American principles do not always apply.

                      Per Wiki

                      Unusual grants of rights
                      On rare occasions, intellectual property rights are granted in perpetuity. When the current UK copyright law was debated in Parliament, former Prime Minister Lord Callaghan of Cardiff successfully proposed an amendment granting Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children a right to payments of royalties for performances, publications and broadcasts of Peter Pan in perpetuity, now enshrined in the Act.

                      The King James Version of the Bible also has an unusual status in the UK. While it is in the public domain throughout most of the world, including the UK, printing it in the UK must still be authorised by the Crown or its agents. It is a common misconception that the requirement for authorisation is based on copyright. It is actually based on the royal prerogative, as exercised through letters patent, and is completely separate from the statutes governing copyright.

                      Thus this action was consistent with British property law, which grants the government authority not found on this side of the Pond. Further, this action occurred as part of a greater (1996) act of Parliament, reviving expired copyrights

                      Extension of copyright term
                      Prior to 1 January 1996, the UK’s general copyright term was the life of the author plus 50 years. The extension, to the life of the author plus 70 years, was introduced by The Duration of Copyright and Rights in Performances Regulations 1995 (SI 1995/3297), implementing Council Directive No.93/98/EEC, to harmonise the duration of copyright throughout the European Economic Community.

                      It contained a controversial provision, which caused certain copyrights to revive; material which had been out of copyright came back into copyright. If the 1988 Act offered a shorter term of protection than the new Regulations, and if the work was still under copyright on 1 July 1995 anywhere in the EEA, then the copyright of that work was revived. But if the 1988 Act offered a longer term than the new regulations, then the old longer term still applied.

                      The normal practice of British law would have been to freeze the extension, applying it only to new works, rather than reviving extinct copyrights.
                      op cit,, section: Copyright_law_of_the_United_Kingdom#Extension_of_copyright_term

                      That such action was within the authority of the British government would seem beyond dispute. As noted in your own citation of the relevant law, “A few people started to take advantage of that, but there was no big rush.”

                      Further investigation of the matter leads to the GOSH site, which advises

                      Does Great Ormond Street Hospital have the copyright in Peter Pan in perpetuity?
                      No, the hospital has a right to royalty in perpetuity in the UK, but this is not a true copyright. This right was granted to the hospital by the Copyright Designs & Patents Act (1988) and applies to stage productions, broadcasting and publication of the whole or any substantial part of the work or an adaptation of it in the UK.

                      The play Peter Pan is in copyright in the US until 2023, and in Spain until 2017. This applies to stage adaptations of the story.

                      Peter Pan is in copyright in Mexico until 2037.
                      gosh[DOT]org/about-us/peter-pan/faqs#Does Great Ormond Street Hospital have the copyright in Peter Pan in perpetuity?

                      an answer which seems to make clear that the lapse was very brief indeed. The FAQ further indicate that standard royalties for performance are charged, indicating de minimis public burden imposed by this exercise of government authority.

                      Given that the original copyright lapsed in 1987 and the act reviving it was passed (per GOSH) in 1988* it is probable the extension was already in process at the time of expiration, thus giving ample public notice of the pending change.

                      So, not act of PM but act of parliament, as part of an ongoing public process to make British copyright law consistent with that of the European Union, a conformation mandated by treaty.

                      I remain unpersuaded this represents any significant harm to the Public Interest.

                      *op cit. wiki/Copyright,_Designs_and_Patents_Act_1988

                    15. “As for being mistaken on the facts … you are entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts.”

                      Exactly RES. Upon reading further down, I see you quoted the exact same facts that I did. I’m just unsure how you are coming up with your absurd arguments out of those facts. Yes it is Britain, and British make absurd laws and rules. But as the facts we are both quoting state plainly, according to British law, the copyright was expired and ceded to the public. Then a politician decided to not only take away the publics LEGAL INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY, but to do so retroactively. I’m pretty sure we both agree on those facts (at least we both quote them). But from there you go off on saying that it was never the publics property in the first place, I’m not sure how you come to that conclusion, since the facts we both quote, quite clearly state that it was.

                    16. See response to your initial entry, elsewhere this page,

                      In brief:
                      Not on a “politician’s” decision but an Act of Parliament, in process at the time of expiration, required by treaty to conform British copyrights with European Union practice and scarcely retroactive in this instance. Thus expiration of the copyright arguably did not constitute ceding rights to the public, given that parliamentary action was already in process to revive those rights. A comparable concept might be a stay of execution pending appeal.

                      I think you err in terming this “the publics LEGAL INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY” — the fact that something is in the public domain does not necessarily make it “public property,” but that is an area where I suspect copyright lawyers make large fees and not one where we are likely to agree.

                      One further note: your lack of comprehension of my arguments does not, prima facie, render them “absurd.” Such characterization is itself an absurd argument, fallacious absent strong support which you fail to offer. Alternate explanations for your failure to follow my reasoning include such possibilities as lack of close reading, careless interpretation of statements made, or even the possibility you are simple. Lacking greater information regarding your processing of my arguments, I hesitate to opine which answer best applies; perhaps all, perhaps some other which I neglected to list, and perhaps my reasoning was fallacious, although you have provided no evidence of that beyond your own incomprehension, which can hardly be deemed dispositive.

          2. I like Life+20-25 because that’s enough time for newborns to grow up

            No need for the life part. Even if the author dies immediately after typing the last period 25 would cover a child conceived in a romp after he typed the last word and just before he typed the last period or, in the case of a female author, who gave birth between the two events.

            1. but if his blockbuster was written nine years before the kid’s birth, it’s fine to leave the kid high and dry and only half grown up?

              1. That’s precisely Macaulay’s objection, and mine too. With a fixed 50-year copyright term, everyone knows when a book will come out of copyright, which means the author and/or his heirs can plan for it. If the book was written early in the author’s career, he leaves the money made from the book to his heirs; if it was written late in his career, he leaves them the future royalties instead of the past cash. Either way, 50 years is long enough time for the author to make boatloads of money off their work, but short enough that the work will go into public domain, and be available for others to build on, before it completely fades from the public memory. For example, people could write a sequel to Casablanca, featuring the adventures of Rick and Louis as they fight in the French resistance. In fact, many such sequels could be written, by different authors. Most would suck, but there would be that one gem that shone brightly and became a new classic.

                It’s the things-never-existing, the children never born, that are the hardest to see. There is no sequel to Casablanca… but there could have been.

                1. On the other hand, there’s no seeing what, in your universe, would have been written in ours, where the authors had to strike out and find new ground. There have been other fine movies, gems that shone brightly and became a new classic, since Casablanca.

                  1. Besides which, the history of the film industry does now encourage thoughts of sequels to great films, given that (at a rough guess) bad sequels outnumber worthy ones by about 50 to 1.

                  2. True, but trite. I’ve read that there are only about 20 basic plotlines. The details to fill those plots have to come from somewhere, and copyright is impoverishing the commons by locking away many of those details. Spider Robinson won a Hugo in 1983 for his story, “Melancholy Elephants,” which dealt with a proposed law to extend copyright in perpetuity.

                    There are 12 notes in the (western) musical scale, and at least one court has held that a 4-note sequence is sufficient to establish plagiarism. How many unique 4-note sequences are possible? How many of them are euphonious? A large number, to be certain. Large enough? For how long?

                    1. How is it any triter than the belief that reusing material under copyright — which is very limited in scope — will produce more classics?

                      20 basic plot types does not mean that there are only twenty novels out there. You can even do a work that is obviously horribly derivative if you just scrape off the serial numbers.

                    2. Where did I suggest reusing material that is under copyright? I’m arguing that extensions to copyright are problematic, because of the fact that combinations and permutations are not limitless, and extending copyright limits the scope of available combinations and permutations. I’d also argue that your characterization of the area covered by works currently under copyright as “very limited in scope” is incorrect and likely to become more so.

                      It’s the details that fill in the basic plotlines that cause the problems. Even without reusing characters directly, people have already argued, “Your character X is a thinly-disguised version of my character Y.” Also, “Your character’s search for X is a thinly-disguised version of my character’s search for Y.” How different does a McGuffin have to be? Can the Tolkien estate sue any author whose characters have to destroy a powerful artifact, and would that apply to the Death Star? Why or why not?

                      How many Star Wars movies would have been made if Kurosawa had sued on the basis that C3PO and R2-D2 were thinly-disguised versions of the comic relief characters from The Hidden Fortress? Sure, we might never have seen Jar-Jar Binks, but …

                      People don’t need things to be identical to make plausible arguments that certain elements were, deliberately or otherwise, derived from prior work. When that prior work is from the public domain, the legal regime says it belongs to the creator. When it isn’t, it belongs to the prior creator. The smaller the public domain, the less room creators have to work with to make things their own.

                    3. Then why was Sword of Shanara published?

                      When people can easily identify every character and just about every plot twist as derivative?

                    4. I’m pretty sure I read that book, but it was a very long time ago, and I don’t remember anything other than I didn’t care for it. Was the author sued over it? Would it have been worth it for the copyright holder to sue?

                      Copyright doesn’t prevent someone from publishing something derivative, or even something absolutely stolen. It just allows the author of a copyrighted work to claim that it’s an infringing work, and ask the courts to adjudicate and grant compensation. The copyright holder has to make the decision as to whether they consider it an infringing work, and whether it’s cost-effective or necessary to their reputation/posterity to sue. After that, it’s a matter for the courts (judicial and public opinion).

                    5. You know, I think a major publisher’s legal department probably has a much better grasp on the legal issues than you do. And that they would not take the risk.

                    6. Because publishers were desperate for a new Lord of the Rings and that was one of the first they could find.

                      Interestingly, Stephen King discusses why he waited to attempt The Dark Tower books out of fear of writing something closer to Sharnara. He doesn’t criticize the book so much as just say it’s not what he wanted to write but what he would have written.

                    7. There are twelve notes *in an octave*. Conventional western music spans three or four octaves.

                    8. That’s true, but it’s still limited. If you transpose Pachelbel’s Canon up two octaves, it’s still in D, but it doesn’t sound the way it’s normally performed. Has it become copyrightable? How about if you only transpose it to F#?

                      I’m not trying to say anything authoritative about “you have to have X different elements out of Y possible.” I’m saying that when you have a limited number of things to select from, it’s harder to come up with something that someone may not have locked down already.

                      Can you have a character who names his pet turtles Cuff and Link? Probably. Can you have a character with those pets who is also an aspiring club boxer in Philadelphia? Possibly, but the other details match up with someone else’s copyrighted character. How many differences make you safe? Conversely, how many similarities are required to cause problems?

                      I mentioned at the top of the thread that I’d read there are only 20 basic plotlines. Kurt Vonnegut has been quoted as saying there are only two. Anything copyrightable has to be based on what you use to fill in the details. No matter how many there are, if the number is finite, then there’s a limit. If there’s a limit, and copyright becomes eternal, at some point there won’t be anything left that isn’t under copyright.

              2. Not at all. If his blockbuster was written nine years before the kid’s birth it is incumbent upon the author to manage his finances. An author who had a blockbuster and is planning children who didn’t buy term insurance is letting his children down not the copyright law.

              3. No, if copyright is good for 25 years, the kid would be sixteen when it expired. But I don’t think that is what you were asking 🙂 But yes 25 is plenty, he gets 25 years of exclusive income out of it. If he has kid fifteen years into that twenty-five, and he doesn’t provide for chance he could kick the bucket and not live an income for kid; how is that different than anybody working any other job who doesn’t provide a sufficient life insurance policy to provide for their kids? If you work at a factory and don’t bother to either buy life insurance, or provide some other means of support in case of your unexpected demise; should the factory be on the hook for all the expenses of raising your kids to maturity?

        3. A coworker of mine suggest what I considered a better solution. Fixed term, infinitely renewable but with a fee at each renewal and a shorter term.

          So, you write a book, automatic 32 years. The next 16 cost a large, but not excessive, sum…say $10,000. The next 8 after that cost $20,000. The next 4 after that $40,000.

          But, Herb, who would renew a trashy sci-fi novel for $40,000 when they’d be lucky to make $4,000 over 4 years. My response: exactly.

          No Disney movie would ever go out of copyright even at the 1 year/$160,000K rate (I’d probably end the system here although costs would be indexed to inflation with the same indexer as tax rates).

          I actually like the system in general for any place government is granting a monopoly or privilege.

      2. Lewis L’Amour? Is that from the same publisher as the one who offers the complete Robert Antoine Heinlein torrent?

        I’m holding out for the Edmund Welles torrent.

      3. I’m a barbarian (who hasn’t a clue how to break DRM) so I’m of the opinion that DRM is bad…basically period. I mean, 1 no physical library book has a magic “auto-return” spell upon it that yanks it from my hands once the “maximum renewal” period has expired…at worst, their are late fees. 2 nonphysical books, absent DRM? It’s *impossible* for a patron to inconvenience the library or other patrons by keeping the book longer than permitted…because it’s a bundle of blasted *electrons*!!

        A physical book can be lent only once, then must be returned in order to be lent again. An electronic book? Unless some new tech has been invented that skips over the basic foundation of how the internet works, then when you download a file, it is essentially copied onto innumerable different devices as it makes its way to your individual device. The literal original file never makes it to you. It is a (essentially perfect) copy that reaches you. As such, the only way your act of borrowing could prevent the library from lending (another copy) to a different patron at the same time as you have borrowed it is if some sort of idiotic mechanism was put in place to artificially limit, or destroy, the original file in order to make lending it multiple times in the same time period impossible.

        And that’s what they’ve tried to do, and it’s simultaneously stupid, despicable, and bat-guano nuts. Do I understand *why* they do it? Sure. Do I still think it’s insane to treat non-physical materials the way physical materials are treated, as though they can, by sheer force of will and tantrums force reality to bend to their fantastical, drug-addled (sheer speculation on my part) perceptions of what that reality *ought* to be? You betcha!

        Do I have a solution to the problem of the fact that lending electronic books (with or without DRM) invites the possibility of copying etc? No, not really. But I wasn’t intending to offer an alternative solution (nor did I intend to write a massive wall of text…heh) I just intended to offer my $0.02 regarding DRM, and to say, with regards to the issue of breaking DRM on books that you purchase being illegal, that I agree wholeheartedly with you.

        Heck, I’ve had thoughts that it ought to be illegal to *put* DRM on books (or any electronic media) that one is selling! (bad analogy time) If I buy a cheese grater, is it legal to (magically) make it impossible to grate certain types of cheese on that grater? …no, it’s isn’t. But it’s legal to sell me (at often outrageous prices) a book that has been mutilated to make it impossible for me to use as I would any other file. I can’t transfer it to a different device, I can’t store a backup, or if I can, I can only store a backup once, or some other arbitrary number, and I’m SOL if the external hard-drive I stored that backup on is destroyed and I’d like to make a new back-up. It’s the law, it doesn’t have to make sense, right?

        please forgive the wall of text, and potential incomprehensibility/unreadable nature of said wall of text. I’m more-or-less typing stream-of-consciousness right now…
        God bless! 😉

        1. Yes, it is perfectly legal to make it magically impossible for a cheese grater to grate certain kinds of cheeses. Your only case would be if you were willfully misinformed about it.

          1. First, the law need not enforce the magic / DRM. Second, in the long term DRM content will likely become completely unusable. I’m not betting my fifty-years-hence library for the time I’m in a nursing home on Amazon still being around and still allowing me to redownload my ancient DRM-locked files in the appropriate encryption for my new ereaders when my old ones die or fail to have whatever functionality my old-age-self needs. This is all entirely foreseeable and has happened already with MP3s, so arguably selling DRM-locked content as purchases, and not indefinite leases, is inherently fraudulent, since you remain permanently dependent on the company controlling the DRM to continue to use it.

            1. If it’s in the contract (or implied contract, in which you bought it knowing the limitation), it is the rock-bottom duty of the law to enforce it. The most minimal state is the one that merely protects against force and fraud — and breach of contract is fraud.

              1. How can there possibly be any implicit or explicit agreement to keep the DRM on the ebooks you purchase from Amazon when the purchase page doesn’t tell you that the ebook has DRM? (Some at least of the purchase pages for DRM-free ebooks mention the DRM’s absence, but none of the pages mention DRM’s presence.)

                Also, if Amazon wants to limit what I do with content that I acquire from them, it needs to stop describing the acquisition as a purchase. What I buy is MINE and I can do what I like with it. If the arrangement that I may keep ___ so long as I don’t fold, spindle, DRM strip, or otherwise change ___, then that’s a lease or a license, not a sale. If you tell me that I’ve purchased ___, then tacking on restrictions is inherently deceptive.

                1. So long as the removal of DRM is not accomplished for personal profit (e.g., by resale) and is not notorious* there is little infringement of the seller’s rights.

                  Arguably, the lessor by describing the transaction as a “purchase” is engaging in fraud if the right of enjoyment of the product is entailed. Certainly if I purchase a HB or MMPB edition of a work that includes a right of resale as “used” — yet another reason e-pub should be priced below dead tree.

                  *In its legal usage, i.e., ” holding personal property in a way which anyone can observe is as if the person is the owner.”

                  1. The bit about behaving as if you were the owner is a little ambiguous. As far as I’m concerned, I am the owner of *one copy* of the ebook and possess the right to strip DRM, delete every other word, make such extensive changes I’ve changed the text into fan fiction, whatever. I do not have an inherent right to copy this ebook except to prevent loss and as needed to use it, but I see no harm done by copying the file to multiple devices as long as they’re owned by the same household. (Indeed, Amazon’s DRM allows me to do this as long as all the devices are Kindle products or running Kindle software — they just all have to be downloaded separately.)

                    However, if I distribute the DRM-free file, harm is done, whether or not I’m caught at it. I’m not sure if anonymously uploading to a torrent site counts as legally notorious, and it’s certainly an infringement on the seller’s rights.

                    If this were a physical product, I’d have a right of resale. I don’t really object to the lack of a right of resale for digital files, because who’s to tell if I kept a copy? Enforcement is just impractical. HOWEVER, the purchase or license or whatever you choose to call it cannot decently go away upon my death when this wasn’t something I agreed to, and there are no legal provisions I’m aware of for someone to inherit my Amazon account (note to self: put it in your well as a specific provision anyway.)

        2. DRM on leased content is just a matter of forcing me to keep my word at a reasonable deal. DRM on purchased content is evil for a variety of reasons. I agree it shouldn’t be legal when the marketing was for a purchase; that strikes me as fraudulent. (Or perhaps merely deceptive on original purchase, becoming fraudulent if and when but probably when the company which “sold” you the content ceases to make it possible to continue using the content.)

          There are numerous tools which will allow you to break DRM. The one that was best known when I made sure I could strip Amazon’s DRM if I needed to was Apprentice Alf’s Calibre plug-in.

          Calibre is an absolutely wonderful program for organizing a ebook collection kept on your computer. You import books and it puts them in folders for you. You an change the metadata (e.g. tweaking the author’s name, adding Series Name # as a preface or suffix to the title, etc.) There are versions available for Windows, Macintosh, and Linux. This is a very law-abiding program and doesn’t do anything like break DRM for you. In the Calibre discussion forums, the author deletes questions about doing so. However, Calibre allows unlimited add-ons called plug-ins, which are triggered when Calibre does certain things.

          Enter Apprentice Alf and his plug-in, triggered when you ingest a book. If it’s set up correctly, the DRM disappears when you ingest into Calibre. You can test this by attempting to convert into a different format.

          PLEASE do not use this to rip off a living author.

      1. You’re a Wentworth fan too? I spent Far More Money Than I Should Have buying her ebooks from Amazon, mostly because I failed my Resist Temptation roll. (Really, I don’t like buying ebooks I once-upon-a-time owned in paperback.) I did at least reread them all, and having archived them in a ready-to-DRM-strip directory backed up to the cloud, I should be able to keep them, no matter how many moves I make and how far I have to consolidate possessions.

    3. Hell, I won’t even shell out the prices being charged for Heinlein’s backlist in ebook. Sure, he’s one of the greats, and one of my favorites, but a lot of these books are not even 200 pages, and are over 50 years old.

    4. Bingo…I bought two L’amour but more for research than pure entertainment and thus I considered the cost acceptable.

      I cannot see any reason any book originally a MMPB and over 10 years old should be anything more the $2,99 on Kindle. The costs are either amortized out or lost and you’re working the long tail. The long tail is about bringing in marginal customers after costs are amortized via low costs.

      1. Maybe they think if the price of the ebook is high and the dead tree is low, people will buy the dead tree. could be they think that this is a way to kill ebooks. Ebooks are here to stay. All this strategy does is drives customers away. As far as KU, If I’ve finished a book and liked it, then I’ll buy it.

    5. A more prosaic example, I bought the sequel to the recent Hun’s Goodread’s group in trade because at $14,99 for trade I thought I was getting a much fairer deal than the exact same text in Kindle for $7.99 although once I had the trade I did avail myself of the highly discounted eBook (although that too can be a gamble…after shelling out $20 offering me an eBook from $5 is just going to annoy me).

  2. hubby buys nothing but ebooks. he commutes by plane and paper books are nothing but a hassle to him. most of the time at home we read on a kindle. in one bathroom the book waiting to be read is a kindle. We each have multiple kindles.

    1. Although if you read in the bath, not just the bathroom, paper books still have an advantage over Kindles. With either one, if you drop it in the water your book is ruined. But at least with paper, if you drop it in the water it doesn’t ruin your access to all your other books until you get a new device.

      1. … and while I’m typing the above, Elizabeth posts four minutes before me about a water-resistant bookreader. Heh.

        1. We don’t own it; I just discovered it (after a few posts noting tub reading as one of the cases for hard copies) when doing some searches on ereaders checking to see if there was anything I should ask for over the Kindle Voyage for Christmas. (I own a Kindle Paperwhite and love it, but I’d like the opportunity to use buttons or pseudo-buttons.) The review of the Kobo Aura H20 were favorable. Sent a copy of the review to my husband, and may get him one for Christmas.

          1. I have a similar one from who knows where, and added a tempered glass screen protector, mainly because the new phone is so small, I was nearly dropping it from losing grip. so added bulk is easier to hold (I guess I’ve reverted to todler-hood) and some of the chemical I play with attack coatings on vision items or tablet/phone screens. Few weeks ago I dropped the phone and it hit, screen first on a corner of a concrete block.
            few slight cracks in the glass protector, but the phone is fine.
            really glad I bought those things.

              1. I stock many rolls of toilet paper in the bathroom. Plus there are flushable wipes and other things one can use in case of an emergency.

          1. Really, I’m an all three (tub, shower, commode)…in fact shower reading is more likely to make me late for work than traffic.

        1. Beware. I knew a woman whose house caught fire when she was on the throne, but she wouldn’t get off the pot “until I finish this chapter, dear.” Very sad. All her books burned up. What about her, you ask? Oh, she got out fine.

          1. When my mom was a kid she had a recurring dream in which she missed the Last Trump because she was reading in the outhouse.

            I figure, why fight it? And installed bookshelves.

            1. reading on the ‘throne’ is a very unhealthy habit, just ask your doctor. And not because you might spread germs, but because sitting on a toilet seat is bad for your body, lingering there is what leads to, or promotes, all sorts of issues.
              Again, just ask your doctor, especially ask a proctologist.
              Do what you’re there to do, and get off the seat. Don’t linger there.

    1. I just looked at the short list and winners for each year. I’ve only read ONE of them. I’ve only _heard_ of about a dozen of them, total! And outside of the one I read (which was later a movie) the only reason I’ve even heard of them is because they were made into movies. I’ve barely heard of any of the authors. That is one esoteric list.

  3. “I don’t know what the percentage of people is who drove madly across town to Borders, went in five minutes before closing, and bought out an entire shelf of material…”

    Yup. Also used to keep two or three in the truck, for waiting at the hospital and suchlike. Knew the shelves better than some store employees. Brought home stacks, wondered “where the heck am I going to put *these*?” Learned *not* to take books into the bathroom at home (I’d never leave until I remembered that I’d forgotten to eat again).

    I came to the whole ebook thing relatively late, only a few years back did I finally get a Kindle. I’ll miss having the library room I always wanted (a place for books is a place for me…), but having them where I can’t lose them is quite a plus. And cheaper matters when my disposable income sometimes shrinks from “one hardback or three paperback?” to “books and Ramen or no books real food?” No brainer, that.

    I haven’t bought an ebook over $9.99 in, oh, a good while now that I think on it. Might have just been the one. The larger part of my reading these days is indie, in the $7 and less range. Oh, okay, Baen bundles are eighteen, but that’s for a bunch of books, which works out to cheaper anyways. Fourteen dollars for an ebook is right out.

        1. you need oil for biscuits? You don’t need it for bread do you? I have flour, water, salt, yeast, and baking soda.

          1. In most of the recipes I’ve used, yes. Gives it a different texture than the one I know that has no oil in it. I know you can make a simple biscuit with flour, oil, and water. Never tried it but those who have say it’s dense and chewy.

            My bread recipes all include a little sugar to feed the yeast, but that’s probably a family thing.

            1. If you’re patient, you don’t even need yeast, to make sourdough bread.

              But I’ll agree that bread is better with at least some kind of fat (oil, butter, margarine, shortening, etc) in the recipe.

              1. I guess I shouldn’t say you don’t need yeast, it’s rather that you don’t need store-bought yeast.

                1. You to? I’ve actually got one started, and made sourdough flapjacks a couple of times, but then my starter always dies a horrible death.

                    1. Mine doesn’t necessarily die as looks like it’s on the verge of sentience. Fed it per instructions, too. In each case, mold and/or bacteria got the upper hand. The closest I’ve come is that potato flakes, sugar, and yeast “Amish Bread” starter. That developed a strong hooch in the fridge.

                      Alas, my point with a starter was to eliminate the cost of yeast. Using standard store-brand flour, I could get the cost down, but some store bread was still cheaper. Sourdough would cut out the cost of yeast, and push home baked bread below store prices.

                      The other wrinkle is that I never liked to use the oven in the warmer months, so only baked bread for half the year at most. Then life happened and I haven’t done even that in years.

            2. Water, flour, lard, pinch of salt. Mix, let stand for a few minutes while you clear the work surface and heat a skillet. Take lump of dough, roll into ball, flatten by hand, with a press, or rolling pin. Heat in skillet until freckles appear, flip and ditto. Serve warm con queso, frijoles, o otros cosas. 🙂

                1. I believe that is why they came up with butter-flavored Crisco, the one for which Loretta Lynn did the commercials and appeared in add copy.

                  1. That’s also what the jar of bacon drippings is for. Bacon grease may be far too rich to use undiluted in most applications, but it’s an excellent addition to other oils!

                    1. Eh, trying going winter mountaineering — including the camping in sub-freezing temperatures. Do that, and the cook will find that people will fight over the bacon drippings.

                  1. Nope. I’ve got both my vegetable oil and my crisco unrefrigerated. Now, get the crisco too close to real heat and it will melt, though I’ve not tested out the actual melt point. It managed reasonably well in the summer of far too many days over 110 and even more too many days over 100.

                  1. For biscuits I tend to use crisco, but I’ve used canola oil, generic vegetable oil, olive oil, and grapeseed oil to much the same effect.

                    1. Hmmm. Grapeseed, I’ll have to try that.

                      Have you tried sesame? I do that for things to go with some chef-type salads.

                  1. I strongly suggest you check out pão de queijo: Brazilian cheese bread. Gluten free, very tasty, easy to make. I’d give you your first hit for free if you lived closer. I’ve made several addic- er, fans here.

                    1. There are a bra-zillion* different recipes out there, and I’m sure most of them are good or better – it’s not complicated. We generally use this one as a base. The ingredient she calls tapioca flour is also sold as tapioca starch; it’s ultra-fine flour made from cassava/yucca/manioc root**. We’ve tweaked the cheeses to our taste (asiago or peccorino romano instead of parmesan, less cheddar, or all cheddar when we were broke) and monkeyed about with the mixing format, but it’s a solid base. When we were short on cash at one point, the Oyster Wife and I were selling them for $5-10/doz made in a mini muffin pan. I still have former customers ask us occasionally to take it up again. 🙂

                      * Sorry not sorry.
                      ** If anyone has a good decent legal source of any kind for coarse cassava flour, about the consistency of granulated garlic, I will love you forever and bake you SO much cheese bread. I miss farofa badly.

                    2. Story time. Stop me if I’ve told this one before.
                      December of last year was my daughter’s sweet sixteen, and we offered to take her and a couple of friends to the local Brazilian steakhouse for a fancy meal – Fogo de Chao, downtown Austin. She’d had found out earlier in the year that she had celiac, and it hadn’t exactly been easy.

                      They got all dressed up, and we went downtown. As the meal started, they directed us to the salad bar, and brought out the bread. We snagged a waiter and explained my daughter’s situation. The waiter immediately said “Well, she should stay away from the chicken, because the rub we use there has flour in it. Everything else is fine.”
                      “Even the rolls?”
                      He nodded. “Yes. There’s no wheat in those rolls.”
                      At which point, she got this odd look on her face, and very slowly reached out and took a roll from the basket, and took a bite.
                      And now someone has kicked up a lot of dust and I can’t see my computer screen very well.

                      Anyway, this is good timing. The kitchen is just coming out of its remodel, and we may have to make some cheese bread to celebrate. Homemade has got to be better than the frozen ones we’ve found locally.

            3. I use the same base recipe for (almost) all my bread.

              For “sandwich” bread – white sugar (no, it’s not a family thing, I don’t think we’re related) and butter.

              For “savory” bread – olive oil instead of butter (various spices, depending on what kind of “savory” I’m after).

              For “sweet” bread – light brown sugar instead of white (along with chopped nuts and/or fruit bits).

              It’s the only recipe I have that I have the exact measurements memorized.

          2. “you need oil for biscuits?”

            Only if you want them to taste good. You can make something that you can eat (particularly if you melt enough hot butter over it) but if you want it to taste like a good biscuit you oil or preferably lard.

            1. Cooking oil was rationed in WWII. So when a girl my mother knew made her first biscuits, her family was astounded that they were perfectly nice and fluffy, and even more astounded to find she hadn’t used cooking oil or lard. Asked how she did it, she proudly said she had used the mineral oil.

      1. Vegetarian Ramen with fresh garlic and ginger added to the cooking water, then whip in an egg and sprinkle with scallions on it when serving. Yum.

            1. I hope you are not suffering the same affliction as a friend who gradually went from being unable to digest certain meats, to any meat, to any animal product at all.

              She eats her necessarily vegan diet with good attention to nutrition and evidently enjoys it, but it was still a distinctly inconvenient development.

              1. Yes, having to eat a vegan diet would be a distinct inconvenience for us — The Spouse has diabetes type 2 and needs to eat a high protein/low carb diet.

                Still, so far so good, in spite of having my intestines shut down altogether at one point, when it rebooted, we found much to our relief that I could still digest dairy and eggs products.

          1. Very little meat is required — an ounce or two of thinly sliced ham, or a couple diced shrimp, perhaps a handful of shredded roasted chicken.

                1. Agreed! When the boys make that a menu item, we adults get together and cook our own meal. Usually we will do a dutch oven casserole that makes the boys think twice about their choice of easy over good. That will then get them started on a dutch oven cooking craze for a few campouts.

                  1. Fry the Spam, and add a fried egg if you have any, making a fried Spam and egg sandwich. Then you can eat the sandwich with the Ramen, dipping it in it if you like.

        1. When I can, I dress up my packaged ramen with Chinese sausage, vegetables (carrot, onion, and broccoli, usually), ginger, garlic, and fresh basil leaves, if I have them handy.

      1. Sadly i can no longer entertain the concept of “non-fiction” as credible. I’ve read too many significantly different accounts of the same historical event to believe all of them accurate. Thus “non-fiction” is merely a literary label and not an accurate description of content.

        Such books are no more “non-fiction” than the daily news.

        But we shrug off our various disillusionments and soldier on, eh?

        1. I suppose non-fiction is then the things that you can reproduce for yourself. I’d like to see a text on how one can prove to/for oneself some rather basic things. “The earth is round” would be a good one, for example. It should be simple – but ‘should’ and ‘is’ are not the same thing.

          1. Curved is easy (observe distant ships at sea), round is more difficult but essentially the same (follow distant ship at sea in one direction until you get back to start).

            Math, of course, is non-fiction. Whether or not it applies to descriptions of the real world is another mater all together.

          2. How could you possibly determine the global shape if you if you are only able to observe a small patch of it? That seems like a blind man feeling out the shape of an elephant leg and trying to reason from that to the shape of the entire elephant: fundamentally difficult to do.:-| There are some cross-checks you could do, though.

            If you don’t like the long chain of evidence outside your control for things like photos from space, it is probably impractical to get global results for yourself, but you could at least verify a large-scale check for yourself by doing some homebrew celestial navigation the next time you travel across a few timezones. That wouldn’t prove that the earth is round, but it would probably suffice to show that the alternative hypotheses (like people faking it up) must involve extremely clever devious capable energetic people, probably at the level of spying on you and messing with your observations or time measurements, in order to have your impromptu cross-checks match their nefarious fraudulent geobogogeometry scheme.

            I’m satisfied with a hodgepodge of other cross-checks and constraints that seem hard to fake. I have seen lots of patches of the Earth from several miles in the air (in airplanes or upon mountains), and I have seen the shadow of the Earth in a lunar eclipse, and the Earth fits awfully well into a nice Newtonian scheme for gravitation and the motion of the planets, and I have seen other planets with telescopes and binoculars and expect the Earth is similar, and I know from my general experience that the Earth is really quite big, so big that if it were very different from a sphere in shape the material holding it that way would need to be absurdly strong.

            1. There was a perfect example how last Sunday. Lunar eclipses happen, of course, when the Earth is between the Sun and the Moon, and this was known in ancient times. It was also observed that the shadow moving across the moon was circular. Therefore, the Earth had to be circular. Add to this variations in the elevation of the sun along the same meridian, and it’s easy to figure out that the Earth is spherical.

              There was an odd question during the Age of Exploration whether the Earth was spherical or whether it bulged inward at the equator “like a fat man with his belt too tight.” They solved that with surveys.

              1. They solved that with surveys.

                They went about asking people whether the Earth was spherical or whether it bulged inward at the equator “like a fat man with his belt too tight” and thought answered the question?

                I wonder what was the “No Opinion” response on that.

                    1. I had to take a surveying course for work about 30 years ago. The laser distance theodolites were already on the market, and for our final we used that. Never could hold the target steady enough, not even taking a full breath and letting it half out and holding it. Our error of closure was not in tolerance.

                      We use theodolites for route surveying, and with our short runs we don’t necessarily need that precise a measure. The irony is I don’t think we need theodolites for this at all. My “theodolite” is a Suunto look-through compass that I calibrate for declination, and I find it more than sufficient for measuring pole angles.

                      I really wish I could ask them for a Brunton and a Jacob’s staff. Can’t really justify that, though.

                    2. Never heard it called a Jacob’s staff before, the common term I am familiar with for a staff compass is a stiff d*ck.

                      Were you holding a prism on a rod, or simply using a plumb bob and mini-prism on the string? Beginners should always have something to brace themselves with, often a stick or lathe stuck into (or against, if rock or asphalt) the ground at an angle and braced against the rod, or used as a brace while using both hands to hold the plumb bob steady, usually works well. Especially if you don’t have to hold higher than chest high. It takes a lot of practice to hold a plumb bob free handed at over head height, steady enough to double angles and distances to. An experienced party chief can compensate an amazing amount for a shaky chainman when turning angles, but distances, well the EDM shoots what the distance is at the moment it shoots, there is no averaging out the wobble, like you can do when looking through the gun when turning angles.

              2. I remember reading about the real reason Columbus had problems getting backers for his trip to India/China.

                It wasn’t because the people he talked to thought the world was flat.

                It was because their experts told them that Columbus’s estimates for the sailing distance were completely wrong.

                Columbus could not have reached Asia as soon as he thought he would.

                The experts knew that it was much farther to Asia … and they were correct. [Smile]

                Of course, there is speculation that Columbus knew that there was land out there closer than the experts believed and he “faked” the sailing time. [Smile]

                    1. Our esteemed hostess replied: Colombo, OTOH (runs.)

                      Then, as he reaches the door, Colombo stops, turns, lifts the hand holding his cigar in the air and says …

        2. “To the second, therefore, that they should be the principal liars, I answer paradoxically, but truly, I think truly, that of all writers under the sun the poet is the least liar; and though he would, as a poet can scarcely be a liar. The astronomer, with his cousin the geometrician, can hardly escape when they take upon them to measure the height of the stars. How often, think you, do the physicians lie, when they aver things good for sicknesses, which afterwards send Charon a great number of souls drowned in a potion before they come to his ferry? And no less of the rest which take upon them to affirm. Now for the poet, he nothing affirmeth, and therefore never lieth.”

          Sir Phillip Sidney

        3. The wicked world does justify quite a lot of weary cynicism, but it remains possible to have too much weary cynicism. E.g., a book that tells you how to build nontrivial things necessarily contains a significant fraction of nonfiction if a significant fraction of the things built turn out to work. (A bit like Dawkins’ “Show me a cultural relativist at 30,000 feet and I’ll show you a hypocrite…”) E.g. I have reason to believe that _The C Programming Language_ and Cormen et al. _Introduction to Algorithms_ and second edition _Art of Electronics_ and an early edition of Maniatis _Molecular Cloning: A Laboratory Manual_ contain a significant fraction of nonfiction.

          Similarly a book that gives you nontrivial techniques to predict things (like various volumes of the Landau and Lifschitz Course of Theoretical Physics) necessarily contain a significant fraction of nonfiction if a significant fraction of the predictions work.

          And a book that (like a calculus or linear algebra textbook) correctly tells you how to understand those other manifestly-nonfiction books has a pretty good claim to be substantially nonfiction as well.

          Of course, those might be a discouragingly small fraction of all books, but technical book prices can run so high that they can still make up an encouragingly significant fraction of a book budget.:-)

    1. Having arrived at a con once or twice after the dealers’ room closed on Friday, I know to pack books even if I expect to come home with three or four times as many.

  4. “(Trust me, I just read a modern retelling of the book of Ruth which was like having your back teeth extracted through your eye sockets, because I kept thinking “but it’s free.” ”

    Dang it, I had the idea of retelling the book of Ruth percolating in my brain, and I keep shoving it back, because I never finish anything else I start. And right now I haven’t had time to write on anything. (Okay, if I quit reading and commenting on your blog, I might have some time, but I need a little relaxing time 🙂 )

    Now you are telling me it has been done so badly, that anything I wrote would be an improvement, and the author who did that so badly is getting paid for it.

  5. Kindle borrows have pretty much replaced sales for me this past month. Except for the Baba Yaga stories. Borrows were growing over the summer, and when I went 100% with the ‘Zon, zoom! I’ll be curious to see what my “royalty” numbers show.

    1. I wish that their KU pages read would differentiate between different readers. I mean when I look and I have 163 pages of a 150 page book read one day, 3 pages the next, then 33, then nothing, then 23. I am curious whether that is two people reading the whole book (I know, the math doesn’t add up, work with me here) or half a dozen people picking it up and reading twenty or thirty pages and deciding the rest of it isn’t worth reading.

      1. This is on top of almost everybody’s KU wishlist: For Amazon to tell us how many borrows happened, even if those books were never even opened, or only begun. I write potboilers, and I want data on how “turny” my books are. I want to know how many people finished the book. It would be nice if we knew precisely how many pages were read for each individual borrow, but that’s a lot of data for Amazon to crunch, considering the number of borrows going on across the KU program. I’d happily settle for knowing how many borrows I had per month, and how many KENP turns I had for the same month.

        It is true that KU removes all discovery costs but the minor time cost of borrowing and returning a book, and even if a book is very well written, it won’t be in line with what a lot of readers want. So there will be borrows where people read the first few pages, say “Oh, this is just another damfool zombie novel,” (even if it’s a truly stellar zombie novel) and then return the book. I intuit that this activity will be scattered more or less evenly across the KU book base, and thus cancel out.

        KU was the Big Surprise when I published my first novel on July 31. In the two months since then, 45% of the revenue generated by the book came from KU page turns. I wasn’t prepared for this; I was thinking 15% or maybe 20% tops. Also, I get $2 in royalties for a $2.99 sale, but $3.73 for a full read (assuming .0058 cents per page turn) of the same book on KU. (It’s a longish novel; 144,000 words, or 643 KENPs.)

        KU is in the process of turning genre fiction inside out.

        1. A baseball metaphor would serve this data well: A borrow is an at bat, no reading. A single is 25% of the work being read, 50% a double and reading the whole thing is a home run. While four singles may pay the same money as a home run, the home run has a different intrinsic value to the author.

          Your Amazon statement would report plate appearances, singles, doubles, triples and home runs. Stats geeks would soon start calculating readers stranded ratios and developing strategies for sacrificing the reader to second, stealing bases and so on.

          1. That sounds like an awesome way to think about it. It’s something a great many people can relate to (or could, I’m not sure how much people pay attention to baseball anymore since I walked away in disgust in ’94) and yes, the stats geeks would probably gladly jump on that and interpret the *organic solid waste material* out of it.

        2. Since they have changed their payout calculations, they have to have that information available.

          Besides, their server capacity is big enough. I was just at a group gathering where a handful of the members were telling us about how and why they moved their services to Amazon Web Services, and one part of that is that Amazon realized that their server needs hit gigantic highs in the later months of the year, and were largely idle for the rest, so they decided to rent out their spare capacity. Which meant, of course, that they had to get even more capacity. Yeah, they’re not going to bog down reporting your KULL borrows, even to the number of pages read per hour (although I will admit, they probably aggregate by the day on that).

        3. Doesn’t sound like a difficult assignment for a competent programmer. More like they haven’t thought of it or can’t see the value in it (for themselves) yet.

        4. They’re pretty darn “turny”. Opening one of your books is like opening a bag of potato chips the only way not to devour it in one gulp is not to open it at all.

          1. Heh. Thanks for the vote of confidence. Maybe I should put a warning label on the cover, reading: “To avoid serious sleep loss, do not open after 7 PM.”

  6. Before I met my spouse I spent a lot of my “free” time reading. I was located in a neighborhood with two bookstores, one used bookstore and a decent library within walking distance. Besides work, the gym and a few social activities I did a lot of reading, fiction, non-fiction and work related. I had several large book shelves.

    Now I share a small house with the spouse and fur children. There’s no space for many shelves. There’s not that much time/money for fiction reading. Other activities like family, social, pets, blogs, gaming, (wife is a gamer), and career reading are more pressing. And since fiction reading is recreation it competes with other forms for time and value. My wife has pointed out that she can get hundreds of hours of enjoyment from games for much less than the cost of a few books.

    Reading has gone from primary recreation to something to fill the cracks in. The spouse frowns on carrying a book or two in the car, just in case I need to kill time, but a smart phone is ok. So cheap ebooks for fiction and most of the career reading win out over the physical. (She also has no idea how many are on my phone/slate and computers not what I am reading unless she ask or checks receipts in detail. I do stay in budget, a small budget.)

    I still like paper books. As a child I read a copy of “Time for the Stars” that my Dad left at his mothers house years before, before he entered the military. It’s hard to image that ebooks, especially those tied to DRM or a vendor lasting in a box for decades waiting for others to find.

  7. I was one of your “love the feel and smell of a paper book” types who refused to even try e-books for a long time. On the few occasions my friends talked me into even LOOKING at e-book readers, I was not impressed. They were practically tablets. “I won’t carry a tablet.” I would say (hell, I still wasn’t using a smart phone at the time, although that eventually changed).

    Then one day, a favorite author released a book on e-book format only. Sort-of a related work to his main book series, delving into the backstory of a particularly interesting and favored character that his publisher didn’t want to publish. I was all “Waaa! I wanna read it too!” Then a particularly smart friend pitched the idea of the Kindle Paperwhite. It’s a e-book reader, and ONLY an e-book reader. With a satiny no-glare screen (glare being one of my other big objections) AND it was cheap(er) compared to the other, more full featured readers. Now, I rarely buy a paper book. It’s so darn easy (too easy really) to just poke the screen a few times and like magic, a new book appears.

    Actually, it’s a little TOO easy. I spend FAR too much money on e-books…

    1. I buy my Kindle content mostly on the computer, but I agree: it’s dangerously quick and easy. Succumbing to temptation for under a minute can mean a purchase. I have a wishlist of Kindle books which has as one of its purchases putting expensive temptations away until I come back to it later.

        1. Don’t worry. Thanks to Amazon’s absurd patent, at least it won’t spread for a few more years.

          1. Wait! Amazon PATENTED “Buy Now with One Click”?!!

            While it is a great marketing strategy, I wouldn’t have thought of patenting it.

              1. It may not be obvious to non-programmers what an absurd patent this is. Patents were supposed to cover the details of an invention; they were never supposed to cover the broad outline. If there’s one obvious way to do it, a way that ANY practitioner in the field would immediately think of, then that (by current patent law) makes it unpatentable: “Obvious” inventions cannot be patented.

                The thing is, Amazon’s one-click system is completely obvious to any practitioner in the field. If the user is registered, you let them buy with one click. And how do you tell a registered user? Using browser cookies. These are standard, everyone-does-it techniques, and nobody with any experience in the field could possibly claim that Amazon’s “invention” is non-obvious.

                The problem, of course, is that the U.S. Patent Office is the very definition of “nobody with any experience in the field”. They’ve granted patents on scrollbars, years after scrollbars were in common use, just because the patent application was written in such a way as to obfuscate what it was really describing. And the sheer mess that software patents create is hard to describe, but it’s truly and utterly BROKEN. I can’t communicate how irritating the whole thing is — but if you’re interested in getting an earful, grab the computer programmer whom you know best and ask him his opinion of software patents. I’ll bet anyone $10 (to your $1 if I’m right) that he’ll go off on a very similar rant to mine.

                1. Don’t get me started. Years ago, a customer wanted to patent an exercise machine we were providing software for. The lawyers got really ticked at me because I tore apart their draft application, which, among other things, would have asserted Euclid’s algorithm for greatest common denominator as one of the claims.

                  It may have been because I was rather snarky about it in places – I remember making some comment on the order of, “… if this were a patent for a spoon, it would ignore the need for a bowl and handle in order to concentrate on the details of the filigree at the end of the handle.”

                  And on absurd patents, some lawyer once patented pulling on the chains to make a swing go sideways instead of forward and back. It was in his son’s name, who was around 8 years old at the time, so I presume it was to give him bragging rights at school. Also, I once wrote a poem about U.S. patent #5443036, which was awarded for a method of playing with cats using a laser pointer.

                    1. My uncle use to do that with his dogs.

                      He had to stop until he bought a normal pointer, because his great nephew started chasing the red dot, too….

                    2. I wonder how applicable that is for actual hunting (“That’s right, Mr. Lion. Just follow the red dot … and …”). Personally, I think I’d want less mass in my “play with pets” toys.

                    3. With dogs, really? I guess I’ve never tried it with dogs. Really makes one have a lot of faith in the “everybody knows” fact that animals can’t see red, doesn’t it? You know, people use red lights at night when hunting because “animals can’t see it” like they can a white light. But if they will chase a red laser light all over the place, I have to assume they are able to see it.

                    4. Different animals can see different spectrum’s of light. There is a company that specifically sells lights to zoo’s, that humans can see, but that the animals under display can not (mainly it is for reptiles, but for some mammals there are frequencies humans can see, that they can not). If you can find them, you can probably get a list of who is blind to which.

                      But as far as I know ALL animals can see red. And many of them tend to be much more aggressive when they see it (my personal experience is don’t wear red when training or working big cats). I suspect it is because blood is red, as well as meat and many organs.

                    5. Wild lions, unlike domesticated cats, do not have a frustrated hunting impulse that has to get out somehow.

                      And bees can see ultraviolet but not red.

                2. It was the discovery of the evils of software patents that have caused me to realize that patents are evil; as I studied the evils of patents, I learned that copyrights are evil, too.

                  Thus, if I ever get around to designing things, or writing things, I’m going to do my best to keep it out of the realm of IP law. I can’t help but be a little weirded out by this, however, because I was raised on the wonders of copyrights and patents, and despite knowing that they are evil, and despite being aware of the mountains of evidence of the harms that these things have caused (and the relative lack of evidence for the good) there’s still a little part in me that says “But we need these things to make money!”…

                  1. And as soon as you start making money creating things, you’ll suddenly be glad for the established legal protections that prevent someone else from ripping off your work wholesale and presenting it as their own.

                    1. Really, most forms of research in general. Tech firms aren’t going to spend billions coming up with a new way to manufacture CPUs so they run faster and use less power if their competitors can just copy their methods immediately.

                  2. Yet again, I’m going to recommend Thomas Macaulay’s speeches on copyright. Among which are such gems as:

                    Let us look at this question like legislators, and after fairly balancing conveniences and inconveniences, pronounce between the existing law of copyright and the law now proposed to us. The question of copyright, Sir, like most questions of civil prudence, is neither black nor white, but grey. The system of copyright has great advantages and great disadvantages; and it is our business to ascertain what these are, and then to make an arrangement under which the advantages may be as far as possible secured, and the disadvantages as far as possible excluded. […] We must betake ourselves to copyright, be the inconveniences of copyright what they may. Those inconveniences, in truth, are neither few nor small. Copyright is monopoly, and produces all the effects which the general voice of mankind attributes to monopoly. My honorable and learned friend talks very contemptuously of those who are led away by the theory that monopoly makes things dear. That monopoly makes things dear is certainly a theory, as all the great truths which have been established by the experience of all ages and nations, and which are taken for granted in all reasonings, may be said to be theories. It is a theory in the same sense in which it is a theory, that day and night follow each other, that lead is heavier than water, that bread nourishes, that arsenic poisons, that alcohol intoxicates. […] Thus, then, stands the case. It is good that authors should be remunerated; and the least exceptionable way of remunerating them is by a monopoly. Yet monopoly is an evil. For the sake of the good we must submit to the evil but the evil ought not to last a day longer than is necessary for the purpose of securing the good.

                    He then goes on to argue for a fixed-term copyright rather than author’s life plus X years, and opposes another Member of Parliament’s suggestion of increasing the posthumous copyright term:

                    I will take an example. Dr. Johnson died fifty-six years ago. If the law were what my honorable and learned friend wishes to make it, somebody would now have the monopoly of Dr. Johnsons works. Who that somebody would be it is impossible to say; but we may venture to guess. I guess, then, that it would have been some bookseller, who was the assign of another bookseller, who was the grandson of a third bookseller, who had bought the copyright from Black Frank, the Doctors servant and residuary legatee, in 1785 or 1786. Now, would the knowledge that this copyright would exist in 1841 have been a source of gratification to Johnson? Would it have stimulated his exertions? Would it have once drawn him out of his bed before noon? Would it have once cheered him under a fit of the spleen? Would it have induced him to give us one more allegory, one more life of a poet, one more imitation of Juvenal? I firmly believe not. I firmly believe that a hundred years ago, when he was writing our debates for the Gentlemans Magazine, he would very much rather have had twopence to buy a plate of shin of beef at a cooks shop underground. Considered as a reward to him, the difference between a twenty years term and a sixty years term of posthumous copyright would have been nothing or next to nothing. But is the difference nothing to us? I can buy Rasselas for sixpence; I might have had to give five shillings for it. I can buy the Dictionary, the entire genuine Dictionary, for two guineas, perhaps for less; I might have had to give five or six guineas for it. Do I grudge this to a man like Dr. Johnson? Not at all. Show me that the prospect of this boon roused him to any vigorous effort, or sustained his spirits under depressing circumstances, and I am quite willing to pay the price of such an object, heavy as that price is. But what I do complain of is that my circumstances are to be worse, and Johnsons none the better; that I am to give five pounds for what to him was not worth a farthing.

                    The principle of copyright is this. It is a tax on readers for the purpose of giving a bounty to writers. The tax is an exceedingly bad one; it is a tax on one of the most innocent and most salutary of human pleasures; and never let us forget, that a tax on innocent pleasures is a premium on vicious pleasures. I admit, however, the necessity of giving a bounty to genius and learning. In order to give such a bounty, I willingly submit even to this severe and burdensome tax. Nay, I am ready to increase the tax, if it can be shown that by so doing I should proportionally increase the bounty. My complaint is, that my honorable and learned friend doubles, triples, quadruples, the tax, and makes scarcely and perceptible addition to the bounty.

                    Really, just go read the whole thing. It’s brilliant, and more people need to read Macaulay. If you think I’ve quoted a lot, well, that’s only a small sample.

  8. A number of years ago, just as Amazon was starting there was a discussion on CBC radio between book sellers, a Canadian published and readers. The book sellers were getting squeezed on both ends and wanted the market opened up, the readers are seeing a world of there that was getting accessible and they wanted more.

    The book publisher in response to complaints about the difficulty of getting booked you wanted in a timely way said something remarkable. She said that it was a good thing that people would be forced to wait 6 weeks for a book they wanted.

    The radio went quiet as everyone grasped what had been said. Including the publisher who realized that she had said something that was accepted in her little circle but exposed to the light of day sounded barking mad.

    I didn’t hear anyone defending the Canadian publishing industry after that.

    1. The Canadian Publishing Industry. Now that is a thing that died a very long time ago, as in the 1970’s if I recall.

      What exists here now is guys that print flyers. As a Canadian my only real hope of getting published is in the USA, be it Indie or Dead Tree.

      I’m sure there is some form of moldering corpse, a vanity press where the Celebrated Special People get 1000 copies run off for friends and parties. We’re talking special leather bound, signed, annotated copies of The Handmaid’s Tale, printed and distributed to high rollers because Margaret needed to get her swimming pool fixed.

      That’s what you get in the Canadian Publishing biz. Re-dos of dystopian malarkey from Atwood.

      That’s what the CBC is in Radio/TV, a billion dollar make-work project for buddies of the Liberal Party.

      On the topic of Canadian authors, there are -zero- authors I read because they are pushed as Canadian. If an author gets pushed here in the Demented Dominion, it is purely political. Either they are a Western Civilization hating Communist or they are good friends with a Liberal Party VIP. The whole thing is very Soviet in nature, they just keep quiet about it and hang a happy face on the front.

      As to Margaret Atwood, I’d sooner read the phone book. At least reading that would -only- be boring and pointless, it wouldn’t do physical harm to my nervous system.

      1. Incidentally there are -zero- independent book stores left in Canada. Here in Ontario there is Chapters, and that’s IT. Chapters is a B&N clone run by a woman who won’t allow the only book store left in Canada to sell gun magazines. You can’t buy Guns & Ammo at a book store.

        I get mine at a funny little drugstore in a two-stoplight town.

        Anybody wants to know what the USA will look like if the SJWs win, just drive North for a while. We tried it. It sucks.

  9. Reading about publishers increasing their warehouse space reminds me of the parable Jesus told about the farmer who built bigger barns just ot hoard his wealth. God’s words to him were (and I’m paraphrasing a bit here), “You fool. tonight your soul will be required of you.”

    Maybe not a perfect application of the parable, but I can’t see the sense in increasing warehouse space at the present time. It just seems foolish.

    1. Moreover (I love using that word) I vaguely recall there were some warehouses that were *closed* earlier. In other words, the net amount of warehouse space may have decreased. Wake me up when they start spending more money on editors and proofreaders…. that will be a better indication they are investing in their product.

      1. This brings to mind the Adventures of Michael Milken and His Amazing Junk Bonds. The history of Milken’s adventures is mixed, some being aghast at his derring-do while others applauding his unlocking of assets warehoused by staid management. Established management teams quaked in fear at the threat he posed to their established practices, decrying him for exploiting loopholes and disrupting industries (and, sotto voce, forcing them to adapt to modernity.) Those heavily invested in the status quo reacted to the threat posed by Milken’s aggressive capitalism and eventually forced the indictment and prosecution of him under grounds that were more than a mite dicey — the sort of sins which may be morally okay but technically prosecutable (depending on whom you read: the editors of the Wall Street Journal staunchly decried his railroading, those at Mother Jones thought the penalties insufficiently severe.)

        The 1980s saw the junk-bond market grow from $10 billion in 1979 to $189 billion in 1989, an increase of 34 percent per year. Borrowers in new and emerging industries in the 1980s included Turner Broadcasting, MCI Communications, and McCaw Cellular (now part of Cingular Wireless). As well as financing innovation, junk bonds allowed firms and industries in distress to restructure and increased efficiency through the market for corporate control. Junk bonds financed the successful restructuring of numerous manufacturing firms, including Chrysler, and funded consolidations in a host of industries. During this period, yields averaged 14.5 percent while default rates averaged just 2.2 percent—a combination that resulted in annual total returns of some 13.7 percent, on average. This period ended by 1989, when a politically driven campaign by Rudolph Giuliani and financial competitors that had previously dominated corporate credit markets against the high-yield market resulted in a temporary market collapse and the bankruptcy of Drexel Burnham. Almost overnight, the market for newly issued junk bonds disappeared, and no significant new junk issues came to market for more than a year. Investors lost 4.4 percent in 1990, the first year of negative returns in a decade.

        Emphasis added.

        Whether the collapse was due to inherent flaws in the bond type or because the political interests involved preferred to see the house burn down rather than go to the other guy is a matter for conjecture.

        The article cited above continues with a second article on Milken, explaining that five of the six counts to which he ultimately plead guilty were trivial technical offenses and the six was not even that:

        The sixth and final count was Milken’s having assisted Solomon in filing a false 1985 tax return. The problem with the government’s case was that the return was not false. Solomon claimed a real economic loss, something he had the legal right to do.

        Why, then, did Milken plead guilty and accept a prison sentence rather than fight the charges and pay a fine for technical violations? The reason was that an aggressive and politically ambitious prosecutor, Rudolph Giuliani, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, took extreme measures to go after Milken. Giuliani let Drexel off with a reduced penalty in return for the firm’s cooperation in convicting Milken. Guiliani even invoked the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) to charge Milken with “racketeering.” When RICO was passed in 1970, it was aimed at organized crime, but Giuliani used it to get Milken.

        Even Milken was probably shocked, though, when Judge Kimba Wood gave him a stiff ten-year sentence. Later, Wood reduced Milken’s sentence to two years, ostensibly because Milken had cooperated with the prosecution in other cases. Milken’s cooperation was minimal, though, as he kept insisting on telling the whole truth, even when that damaged the government’s chances in these other cases. Economist Daniel Fischel speculates that Wood had time to realize her mistake. After the initial sentencing, her colleague, Judge Louis Stanton, had stated that the tax “felony” to which Milken had pled guilty was not a felony. And Wood was aware that the Second Circuit had reversed many of Giuliani’s convictions of various people who faced charges similar to Milken’s.

        Giuliani’s aggressive pursuit of the financial industry (including such stunts as “dragging two stockbrokers from their offices in handcuffs”*) predicated similar paths trod by Eliot Spitzer and other ambitious NY pols even though few convictions were earned they were able to pressure plea bargains by leveraging the extreme epense of defense against such prosecutions.


        1. I registered Republican in NYC before going off to college specifically to vote against Guiliani in the primary because his conduct as a prosecutor had been so outrageous. I forget … I think I protest voted in the general, but I may have gone so far as to vote for Dinkis. Or I may not have been organized enough to vote absentee from college. (I later changed my registration to my college locale, then Democrat upon returning to NYC, because most NYC elections are decided in the Democratic primary.)

          1. … most NYC elections are decided in the Democratic primary.

            Often even before then, and occasionally after (see: incumbent candidates who win primary and then resign to accept appointment to other office, clearing the way for the party to appoint replacement candidate in general elect.)

            Political office in some places is too valuable a commodity to leave to the voters’ discretion.

        2. This is why I think that juries should be able to return one of three verdicts: Guilty, Not Guilty, and “You’ve Got to be %&*$ing %&#$ing Us.”

          If a jury returns “YGTBFSU” (I admit the name needs some work) the prosecutor, personally, is responsible for paying the defendant’s legal costs as well as paying the defendant the larger of what the defendant would have made over the course of the trial, assuming 40 hour work weeks and the highest salary/wage earned in the previous 3 years, or what the prosecutor earned over the course of the trial. After 3 “YGTBFSU” verdicts, the prosecutor is permanently disbarred.

          1. My grandfather served on a grand jury that true billed a case that never should have gone to court. The judge threw out the case and recalled the grand jury to give them a “What were you thinking?” chewing out.

          2. The problem is that juries, who listen to sob stories from the most idiotic plaintiff, would listen here too.

  10. I used to buy books at Barnes and Noble, two or three a week for years. I was traumatized by mother who told me I couldn’t buy books, just go to the library. (In fairness, I was reading 7-10 a week). I went to Kindle to keep from drowning in books. And I love old books! Honestly I don’t care what books cost and I’m surprised to hear some kindle versions are more expensive. Don’t know which books are Indies and which are trad either. I’m just there for convenience and less dust in my house. And one click buy is dangerous….

    1. My mother traumatized me by only letting me check out from the library as many books as I could carry. (Did wonders for my upper body strength, though). Trouble was, I could get through that many in one day, and she only took me to the library once a week.

      We should form a support group 🙂

      1. Me, too. sigh

        And one day she forced me to return ALL my library books even though we weren’t going on vacation for a week! (That was when I started to write.)

        1. I was also limited by what I could carry.
          So are my kids.
          But it’s for an entirely practical reason: if we carried the kids’ books, who would carry ours?

          1. “I was also limited by what I could carry.
            So are my kids.
            But it’s for an entirely practical reason: if we carried the kids’ books, who would carry ours?”

            This is what wagons are for.

          2. For those of us of the readerly persuasion a good, sturdy sport coat is a must have article of clothing. Casually dressy for men and women and those undecided, a well-designed sport coat will have four pockets, two inside and two on the exterior front, each capable of holding two to three paperbacks, ensuring at least six books constantly available.

            Sure, you have to beware sudden turns which might entail collateral damage to objects on tables and counters, but that is easily learned. Proper coats of this type are generally very sturdy, of heavy wool or tweed or even of corduroy, suede, denim, or leather.

            Particularly heavy readers might opt for a shooting jacket while for light reading I would recommend a blazer.

            1. BTW, those who have met me at cons can attest that I am readily identifiable by my ever present hand-tooled leather attache, slung from a shoulder strap which can allow me to carry a significant number of books — a half dozen or more HB and/or easily a couple dozen PPB, depending on dimensions and page counts.

              I rarely have concern over running out of reading matter ever since the traumatic moment in Fifth Grade when i had so exhausted the classroom library that i found myself reading Answers To I,001 Questions About Birds, a topic on which, at the start of that book, I had not one single question. I still recall one of those questions answered, a half century after:
              “Q. Do ducks have penises?
              Of course ducks have penises.”

              1. Pooh!

                … in Fifth Grade when I had so exhausted the classroom library that I found myself reading Answers To I,001 Questions About Birds, a topic on which, at the start of that book, I had not one single question. I still recall one of those questions answered, a half century after:
                “Q. Do ducks have penises?
                A. Of course ducks have penises.”

                Thus is the typo demon appeased.

              2. Reminds me of the story of the young girl who sent a book review to a book club that stated, “This book gives me more information about penguins than I care to have.”

                  1. I’ll still open one up occasionally at a random location and see what’s interesting.

                    Foreign-language dictionaries and phrasebooks are also fun. One of my friends told me about his favorite word in Nelson’s (unabridged and very large) Japanese-English dictionary: tsuji-giri. Literally, it translates as “highway-cutting,” but the actual meaning is, “to test the worth of a sword by attempting to cut through a random passer-by.”

                    I have a Japanese-English phrasebook from the 1950s that was apparently written by an upper-class Englishman in the 1920s – it includes such phrases as “Whew! but they make a deuce of noise!” and “Let us hope that it will occasion no shipwrecks.”

                    You can also find excerpts from “English As She Is Spoke” online, which is a fun phrasebook written in the 1800s by someone taking a Portuguese-French phrasebook and translating it word-by-word using a French-English dictionary. I’m still not sure how they came up with “to craunch the marmoset,” though.

      2. The Daughter, it turned out, was amazingly strong — particularly when it came to carrying stacks of library books. 🙂

    2. You had a library?!? Lucky.

      I grew up on a small farm. I had to read whatever I could get my hands on. Growing up to non-reading (for pleasure anyway) parents, we didn’t go to the library when we went to town either.

      During the school year, it was better since the school had a library. The joke by the time I left that school was that I had read every book they had..

      1. My Grandfather inherited the family printing business. So, duh, we owned books. They were not always the ones I wanted, but we believed in owning books.

      2. Before I started to school, our library was two book cases, a small bookcase three shelves high and a longer one three books high, filled with a mix of fiction and non-fiction. Going to the library then was difficult, but in those days the library could come to us in the form of a Book Mobile. This dropped by once a week at a country store, and there we could check out books. Even a largish van only holds so many books, so they rotated out the selections.

        Then we got a set of encyclopedias with their own bookcase, Even then, there were times I’d read my parent’s old high school textbooks out of shear boredom.

        My favorite books? A set of Popular Mechanics Home Handyman. You could make things with those – provided you had the tools and materials.

      3. Luxury!
        We had to make up our own stories, and then write them down in the dark, nibbling them onto bread crumbs that we stole from the mice.

        Kids these days with their newfangled ‘paper’ and ‘books’ and ‘printing presses.’

  11. Just because publishers are building infrastructure doesn’t mean it is a wise business decision. Almost all businesses expand until the final brief and rapid decline.
    Looking to the near future. Income is not keeping up with inflation. (No matter what government paid liars say) Income has been flat for 30 years now. Books require a mass market. They aren’t like yachts or beach houses. If paper books are too expensive they won’t sell enough of them to support this sudden expansion that should have been done last century.
    Looking further – say ten years from now. A new author with a good product will look at their contracts and say – No thanks. I can do much better. An author usually has to have a few decades under their belt to turn out good copy. Their author list is a very perishable asset to a company.
    For example Scalzi – He’s about as young an author who is basically captured under the contract system now – They will have him at least another ten or fifteen years before he slows down or retires. Then what? They either spend a LOT more for editing and help for new authors or accept lesser talents. I wouldn’t invest in print publishers as a long term hold.

    1. Speaking as a wannbe author trying to sell something, everything I’ve seen from the publishing industry looks like “Get lost!”. Even Baen said “Send us your thing, maybe we’ll get back to you someday. But for sure not for nine months.”

      Except Amazon. They said “come on down!” They’re interested in having me post my work on their kindle thing. Maybe it’ll sell. Maybe not. They don’t care, they just want more stuff.

      Guess what I’m going to do? Duh, right?

      My question is, how long can they afford to piss me off?

      They don’t own the only means of production anymore. Their competition for eyeballs is a zillion kids posting cat videos and makeup tutorials on PooTube. Kids with ZERO PRODUCTION COSTS.

      Took me a couple months to finish a book I’d been fiddling with for 15 years. From what I see on this blog and other writer’s blogs, that’s not bad.

      A kid can produce a makeup tutorial in one or two days, start to finish, and get a million hits.

      Little Scalzi with his million dollar book deal used to be -me-. Nobody. Some guy with a pile of paper in his hands and no place to publish it. Didn’t matter how good or how bad that pile of paper was, nobody wanted to talk to him. He had to do battle with the forces of “Fuck off I’m busy” for quite some time I’m sure.

      For every guy like him that stuck it out, there’s probably hundreds who couldn’t be bothered. Was his story better than all those hundreds? Really? ALL of ’em?

      Amazon says no. There’s good stuff on there that publishers wouldn’t touch, and it sells. Larry C’s experience shows that publishers are using the Amazon Kindle as a convenient slush pile, offering contracts to the ones that sell. Cheaper to let other people do the work of milking the cow if you can stand there and skim the cream off for yourself.

      Seems a bit scummy to me. I’ll have to think about it a bit more.

      1. My understanding is that a publisher such as Baen has a limited number of monthly slots it can fill — they only get so much print-run space any given month, and that must be contracted well in advance. The opportunity cost they bear for a book that tanks is simply too high to take much risk.

        A similar example can be found back in the day. In the Sixties (and somewhat before) DC Comics allowed the printers and distributors two (2) slots a week for Timely (later Marvel) comics — mostly to avoid monopoly accusations and partly as a sop to the fact that the publishers were friends. This worked just fine until the “Marvel Age” blossomed toward the end of the decade and they began both to out sell DC and out strip the slots allocated them.

        If Baen were inclined to, my recommendation would be to take on some additional editorial staff, carefully trained in the Baen “house style” to develop an e-pub line, targeting more experimental works and novice authors whose work can be used to broaden the market for the baen brand, exploit the economies of e-pub and develop works which could later be published on dead trees. The drawbacks would be greater staffing cost (an editor can only read so many books a month; I do not know Baen’s read-to-accepted ratio but I doubt it is better than 5:1 and could easily be as high as 20:1) and diversion of senior editorial time and attention.

        1. First off is the slush pile readers. Who can probably reject at least twenty manuscripts an hour and most of the time is spent opening the envelope and putting the manuscript back into the return envelope.

          It’s past the slush pile that things start to get interesting.

        2. The problem here–and it is disappearing, but not quickly–is that a traditional publisher can get a print book into the distribution system for bookstores, big box stores, grocery stores . . .

          What does even Baen have to offer, over Indy, for ebook only?

          1. An advance. Admittedly a lot of advances are a joke, but an advance, editing, and general lack of headache dealing with publishy stuff instead of writing. Oh and promo.

            Problem is most trad pub houses aren’t providing any of these, except a minimal advance for their authors.

          2. The “Baen Name”.

            Seriously, Baen Books has a reputation for putting out “fun to read” books.

            So, if an eBook had the Baen Name on it, people might look more closely at it than they might look at another eBook. [Smile]

            1. Exactly – brand identity. I don’t know as I would have tried MHI were not Baen publishing it. A peculiar concept from somebody I never heard of? let me know how it works, I’ve got a reading pile of two gazinty already accumulated.

              Baen also (according to rumours spread by such dubious characters as John Ringo) provides significant useful editorial recommendations to make stuff more readable. I suspect many of us would pay a dollar more for a Baen imprinted e-pub than some off the street indie (not to disparage indies.) Promoting stuff on the Baen site is another benefit to the writer and one that adds very little to the e-pub costs.

              E-pub that sells well automatically is in line for Baen to dead tree it, as well — very low set-up costs, more exposure and profit for all.

              There is a veritable tsunami of e-pub and anything which offers a preliminary sort (oh, look! this one’s from TOR! toss it right out!) is a tangible benefit.

              1. “Baen also (according to rumours spread by such dubious characters as John Ringo) provides significant useful editorial recommendations to make stuff more readable.”

                I have heard it sometimes is something like *In Big Red Pen – This section, right here. Yeah, that’s the one right there. Make it not suck so much and get back to me!*

            2. I like most things Baen puts out, but not everything I like is in their vision. And that’s fine! I would like to see more presses with a solid brand and vision like that, though, in a variety of styles and genres. I know there are some small presses like that, but I don’t know how to find the ones that make what I like.

          3. What does even Baen have to offer, over Indy, for ebook only?

            Good question. I think there are a couple of things Baen has to offer.
            #1 – Brand recognition. Once upon a time, there were two publishers I paid particular attention to. One of those went under and now there’s Baen.
            #2 – Editing
            #3 – Access to fans – Baen has the Bar, has the travelling roadshow, has other kinds of promotional things that they do for their books. They’re really interested in selling books, not in being the most popular kids in the room. So they have real, committed fans.

            Now, that’s not to say that an indie author can’t build fans, or get editing, or become their own brand. (Or, maybe an indie author or five could get together and form their own little collective and create a publishing house brand of their own.) Indie authors could do that. But Baen already has done that. So at least for some writing, maybe it’s a good career decision for an author to use that structure.

          4. I have confidence that my Baen purchases will be of good or better quality (which doesn’t mean they’re to my personal taste) and accurately depicted (that is, the description, cover, etc. will contain correct cues as to the nature and subgenre(s) of the book.) This means that when I buy Baen I know approximately what I’m getting — the Baen book may be no more likely to be ambrosia than the decently-reviewed indie book, but it’ll be drinkable, and it will be accurately marketed as beer, wine, fruit punch, etc. (And, since Baen’s editors imo do a better job of throwing out the swill than random reviewers, its books *are* more likely to be wonderful, if only because the bottom fifty percent is absent. I think they *also* do a better job than random indie editors, but not better than good indie editors.)

            Knowing that I won’t find myself reading dreck and that if I chose a Baen book based on the subgenre it’s marketed as because I’m in the mood for ___ today I’ll get the subgenre in question is worth a little extra money to me. Then Baen bundles an average of four new books and a couple of backstock books into monthly bundles for a flat $18, so if I buy in bulk it’s competitively pried with the indie.

      2. Even Baen said “Send us your thing, maybe we’ll get back to you someday. But for sure not for nine months.”

        I’ve heard their big problem is finding editors that can do the same job the ones they already have are doing– and that they’re looking. Heck, I’d be pushing my husband to look into it, but there’d be moving involved. 😦

        Wish they could set up an electronic slush pile for distance reading– I’d be delighted to do that for peanuts! (I read fan fiction, for heaven’s sakes.)

          1. Liability and corruption issues– there’s always the risk that I’d claim they owed me back pay or something, or that I’d start taking payments to bump up folks’ submissions when they oughtn’t be.

          2. Used to (and may still) be there was a venue at Baen’s Bar known as the Slush Pile where, I imagine, Barflys could submit and read each others’ stories.

            Whether any submissions there could be picked up for publication, I couldn’t say. I had all I could do keeping up with arguments bar fights debates discussions in Ringo’s tavern and the Kratskellar.

            1. The Slush Pile conference still exists on Baen’s Bar but it is NOT the Baen Books slush pile. [Smile]

              I’m not aware of Jim Baen and/or Toni “pulling” something from the Slush Pile conference to be published by Baen.

              Oh, Christopher Nuttall who is making good money as an indie started in the Slush Pile conference and still posts his new books there for our feed-back.

        1. If my content editing skills were anywhere near as good as my line and copy edits… *sigh* Ah well, I’ve no shortage of things to do.

    2. Just a couple of points. Income hasn’t been flat for 30 years, wages have been, and that’s only if you use CPI to adjust for inflation. CPI is a pretty horrible measure of inflation. Use any of the other ways to measure and wages have been going up steadily.

      1. Is that so? I thought that CPI was underestimating inflation, given that they didn’t include such everyone-needs-’em commodities as gas and milk. So which other ways to measure inflation are there, and why are they better than the CPI?

        1. The core CPI ignores food and gas prices because food and gas prices change for reasons largely unrelated to inflation. The biggest problem with CPI is that it doesn’t accurately account for substitutions consumers make or the fact that most consumer goods improve over the years. You really can’t compare a modern car or computer to their counterpart 20 or 30 years ago.

          The one I remember off the top of my head is the GDP deflator, which essentially uses the entire economy as the basket of goods.

          1. You really can’t compare a modern car or computer to their counterpart 20 or 30 years ago.

            But you sort-of can because while I’d be happy to buy a car from 30 years ago (had a great Datsun 2-door in High School), they are not available so I cannot. “Minimum cost car” is, I think, a reasonable cost-inflation measure. True, it’s not all inflation (air bags, emission controls, etc…), but it is still what you MUST pay if you want a car.

            1. Sure, if you’re comparing costs of living. But if you’re trying to figure out how the value of money has changed over time, i.e. how many 2015 dollars you could get for a 1980 dollar, it isn’t helpful. Comparing wages across long time-scales is tricky, because you’ve got inflation pushing downward on real wages but those wages are buying an increasing standard of living because the costs of nearly everything are going down, which results in effective upward pressure.

    3. For example Scalzi … They will have him at least another ten or fifteen years before he slows down or retires. Then what? They either spend a LOT more for editing and help for new authors or accept lesser talents

      Are there lesser talents? Sure, he is able to meet the minimum necessary requirements of a novel but he hardly exceeds those any more. A once middling competent writer (he likely would have been low mid list in the Fifties/Sixties) he has apparently grown lazy and indulgent rather than been challenged to up his writing skills when his marketing/politicking skills seem to suffice.

  12. Which means… that traditional publishers should be reconsidering their idea of pricing ebooks way above paper books.

    The world of crafting publishers have been thinking along that line for quite some time. My most recent issue of Knitter’s Magazine advertises The Knitter’s Handbook for $9.99 in the digital format and $19.99 for the print. Meanwhile patterns for projects have been cheaper as downloads for some time now.

  13. Regarding politics, my fear is that the vested interests will pull a last minute rope a dope and we will wind up with Jeb vs Hillary. And whatever that outcome might be the pundits will spend months speculating on why it was the lightest voter turnout in recent history. Insider tunnel vision would seem to be a common occurrence in a number of fields.

    1. Don’t know about that. If that proposed senerio is correct the political machines would have to be working at full speed. Then we will see, once again, districts in Philadelphia with 110% voter turnout.

    2. In that scenario you pick the one who will burn it all down faster. Hillary is the Burn It All Down candidate, for sure.

      1. Burn it down is stupid. I don’t object to people committing suicide. I object to taking me with them. Again, the vileprogs have been working at this piecemeal, with setbacks, (Reagan) for 100 years, taking all they could. We’ve realized we weren’t alone with blogs, so say 15 years ago.
        I agree faster would be better, but look at their patience and you just just want to burn it all down because you didn’t get what you wanted in 15 years of being engaged?
        TRUST me there’s noting good after “burn it all down.” NOTHING.

        1. As Col. Kratman has said, “Think Beirut at it’s worst in the 1970’s.” Or look at Libya now…..

          1. or Somalia…

            Beirut is a particularly pointed example, having once been a modern sophisticated metropolitan center.

        2. I always vote. It is after all my hall pass to bitch about politics between elections. But it was discouraging how many conservatives in 2012 simply could not stir themselves to get out and vote for a rich white Mormon. Misogynist too if you believed the incessant attack ads. Gee, where have I heard that before?
          Thing is, the folks who can be swayed into staying home really don’t pay attention, certainly not to history. And they have absolutely no concept that as bad as things are in the country today they could easily get ever so much worse. Which tends to somewhat explain the popularity of “burn it down.”

          1. Thing is, the folks who can be swayed into staying home really don’t pay attention, certainly not to history.

            Or, have a working knowledge of history and realize it is the entire vector (speed and direction) and not just the scalar (speed). Romney, and the GOP in general, offer (based on their actions, especially in the Bush administration during the period they also controlled Congress) only a change in the scalar quantity.

            I think some people figure if socialism is coming let it come. I don’t but if I was a decade younger or in much better health I’d be tempted.

            As it is sometime today even though it was my first back from vacation and a four day break from politics I just close Instapundit and other political sites because I had just had enough.

        3. You know I want it burnt down no more than you, at least on a 25 year horizon after which I don’t care.

          However, if the choices are burn it down with an accelerant or burn it down dry* I can understand the repeal of using the accelerant to get to the rebuilding quicker.

          * At some point, maybe not this year but at some point, the Democrat progtard of the month promising to get completely to socialism and the GOP progtard of the month promising to get half way to socialism resolve to that…the GOP may claim you can only cover 1/2 the distance each step but any competent engineer can tell you eventually you’re close enough it doesn’t matter.

        1. Frankly Sanders is honest about what he wants. I have serious doubts that the Senate or House would be particularly cooperative should he be elected.

          On the other hand the Clintons (together) have proven rather good at manipulation of the capitol machinery.

          1. But Obama has proven that a (Democrat) President doesn’t need to care about what the House and Senate want. Any budget showdown will likely be decided in the (Democrat) President’s favor in the court of public opinion, if through no other cause than slanted media coverage. For other policies, executive orders have lately been overriding the need to actually obtain legislation, and even when blatantly unconstitutional are overturned by the courts at only a glacial pace. About the only thing a (Democrat) President really needs the legislature for is taxes. For spending – see the budget showdown point above.

            1. ” even when blatantly unconstitutional are overturned by the courts at only a glacial pace. ”

              If at all.

            2. The fact that a GOP Congress cowtows to Obama is the biggest argument to not vote Republican anyone has ever provided.

              To quote our next President, “At this point, what difference does it make.”

              1. Actually, it’s the best argument to vote Republican – conservative Republican – you can have. If conservatives are to have any political power, they must have a political party. We can either build a political party, or make one of the two political parties conservative. Which one do you think will be faster? Of the two political parties, which one would become conservative faster?

                The GOP is becoming a conservative party. Look at the ouster of Boehner and Jeb’s utter lack of traction. We’ve only been seriously trying to reform a national organization with 180 years of history for 6 years. If it were easy, we wouldn’t need to be Americans to get it done.

                1. When Boehner is replaced by another surrender bot and Bush gets the nomination thanks to the 2012 convention rules and a butt load of cash I’ll be asked to buy the latest GOP lemon or “Democrats”.

                  As I said, the “I’ll be dead in 25 years tops so I’ll vote GOP to get the 30 year collapse instead of the 20 year one,” strategy of the GOP works well for me three chronic illnesses (the one that killed my father, the one that killed both my mother’s parents and probably her when her time comes, and a bonus one) at 50 within days of the 2016 election works really well for me.

                  Where do they plan to get the rest of their conservative majority. By two former GOP Senators endorsing the Democrat in various Senate races before the GOP primary as we had here in GA last year?

                  1. Whoever replaces Boehner is going to have to give the conservatives something. Now that they’ve tasted blood the conservatives aren’t going to be shy. We’ve already seen the RNC co-chair call for McClellan’s resignation. Bush’s donors have given him a month to get poll numbers that aren’t crap. The best hope the establishment guys have is Rubio, and he’s pretty conservative on most issues – certainly an improvement over the likes of McCain and Romney.

                    Every election we move forward a step. We can’t do much between the elections but watch and remember. I still want to see Ace’s “Shit List” implemented – a small group of squish Republican politicians, not enough to swing either house, that conservatives nationwide make a concerted effort to unseat, up to voting for the Democrat in the general. Make politicians fear for their jobs if they aren’t conservative and they’ll act conservative. And that’s all that really matters.

                    1. One of the key things with politics as with baseball is to not look at where the parties (teams) are, but to look at their “minor leagues” to see what is coming up. In baseball that mostly means the Double-A and Triple-A teams, where the players expected to arrive in the next year or two are developing their skills. In politics it means looking at the state legislatures.

                      I doubt that picture will come through, but it is a graph displaying the partisan makeup of state legislatures after every election since 1978 (in the post-Watergate period.)
                      [Article: www[DOT]washingtonpost[DOT]com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/03/04/the-remarkable-republican-takeover-of-state-legislatures-in-1-chart/ ]

                      In 1978 the Republicans controlled exactly 11 bicameral state legislatures and owned one house in 7 other states, leaving 31 states with Democrats controlling both houses of their legislatures. Now that has reversed, with Republicans in control of 30 bicameral state legislatures, owning one house in 8 other states, leaving 11 states with Democrats controlling both houses of their legislatures. Some of those Democrat states, like California, are so far out of the American mainstream they can’t even see the riffles.

                      This is more state legislature seats under Republican bottoms than any time in the last half century. Republicans hold 55.1% of state senate seats, 55.9% of state house seats.

                      Moreover, odds are that a significant number of those Democrat held seats are older politicians, unlikely to move up and unlikely to enjoy hanging about in the minority. There is a significant probability of the GOP holding 60% of those seats after the 2016 elections.

                      That means the GOP is developing challengers for the remaining RINOs, true conservatives eager to wrest control of the government back from the entrenched bureaucracies. Which means those RINOs wanting to keep their seats will have to tack Right.

                      The wind is at Conservatism’s back and it would be a terrible shame to give up simply because the Barge of State can’t turn about quickly enough for some folk’s satisfaction. The 2014 elections were a debacle for the Left and that means it is now time to harry them from the field, not give them time to recoup. Their media strongholds are collapsing, their legislative strength is melting away — now is the time to drive them into the ground.

                    2. BTW – did I manage to include enough martial metaphors in that last ‘graph to suit y’all? It woulda taken a hand sledge and a steel wedge for me to cram in any more.

                    3. That means the GOP is developing challengers for the remaining RINOs, true conservatives eager to wrest control of the government back from the entrenched bureaucracies. Which means those RINOs wanting to keep their seats will have to tack Right.

                      There is an assumption there that may or may not be true: that the increased size of GOP state legislative seats are primarily filled with more conservative leaning members as opposed to Rockefeller or worse types. I would suggest that, given marginal gains for either party or in more balanced state assuming this to be true is a risk. If the GOP captures the NY state Senate those Republicans are probably more liberal than Texas state Senate Democrats.

                      Given we are in the process of moving as many people as possible to gov’t healthcare and even the GOP Obamacare “replacements” will continue (and quite possibly accelerate) that trend I’m hard pressed to believe the GOP farm teams will have the stomach to even slow the growth of government much less reverse it.

                    4. Boehner has already announced the shape of his tantrum out the door, what he plans to pass with his loyalists plus Democrats over the next 30 days. I suspect that is specifically to set a minimum price on the “what’s one more”.

                      The GOPe has shown a great willingness to burn it all down if they don’t get their way (which I suspect is part of what has expanded the burn it all down conservative faction although it has been around since at least 1992). The price of McCarthy’s scalp will probably be him teaming up with Reid and McCain to pass amnesty and refund the Obamacare slush fund as an out the door tantrum.

                      To support the GOP in hopes of making it conservative is to invite despair. That’s what nearly 30 years of being a GOP supporter and worker have taught me. The party as a whole would rather lose than cut one single, government program (look at how quickly they got rid of Newt compared to Boehner even though Newt did more to move conservative ideas forward than the entire GOP since).

                    5. Then you might as well eat a bullet, because our choices are to make the GOP conservative or hand the country over to the Progressives for 10 – 20 years, which would be the end of America.

                      Any GOP representative – and a fair number of the Democrats – who votes for amnesty WILL lose their next primary. They know that, which is why amnesty keeps going nowhere (Obama’s executive orders are not – despite what critics might call them – an amnesty. He “just” orderd the DA’s to exercise their prosecutorial discretion to not process certain groups for deportation. It makes nobody a citizen and can be reversed at the stroke of a pen) despite how much the country club set wants it. The good news is that you have a fundamental misunderstanding of what the GOP is. It isn’t some entity with independent goals and desires, it’s a political party made up of people. Its goals and desires reflect those of the people that make it up. Up until recently, the GOP has been made up of those people who have an interest in the political process – mostly those who have enough money to be affected by politics, which is enough money to do something about politics – the Tea Party upset that, and the country club set has been working like hell to get people like you and me back into our proper place – ignoring politics except for every 2 years when we vote for lower taxes.

                      Stay involved, don’t let them win.

              2. To quote our next President, “At this point, what difference does it make.”

                Nope. The only thing inevitable about Hillary Clinton is how, if the Democrats are so foolish as to pick her in the primaries, she’ll inevitably hand the election to the Republicans. Anyone else could defeat the Republican candidate, but a Clinton nomination would mean a Republican president.

                Sadly, I think they’re going to nominate Sanders. Though Warren is still a dark-horse possibility.

            3. In spite of the media’s reporting of the horrible impact on the Rs from past shutdowns, I have yet to be convinced. I really don’t see The O’s election, say, or the 2-year-preceding loss of the House to the Ds as linkable to a popular upswelling of anti-R sentiment.

              Sure the press hated the Rs and the shutdown. Sure the far left Marxists hated the Rs and the shutdown. But I repeat myself.

              But I didn’t see the most-revered-by-the-press-undecided-center voters really shifting hard to the D side and throwing the bums out after any shutdown I recall.

              That all being said, I think the Rs do need to change how things have been working. They need to get off their backsides and, instead of passing one mongo Continuing Resolution as has been the practice lately, pass a full budget package with separate authorization and appropriation bills by department. That way any random psychotically narcissistic D President would have to individually veto huge stacks of clean bills to get a general shutdown over a dispute on the funding restrictions of HUD or the EPA or whichever.

              Congress could still slap restrictive amendments on travel, or insert their pet projects, or add don’t-fund-that-stuff restrictions to the authorization and appropriations bills for any particular department. This would leave any random psychotically narcissistic D President with no way to get a general shutdown other than vetoing every-damn-thing purely out of spite, or some kind of odd executive order for executive branch department employees to not show up to work. The most The Prez could do with anything like a straight face would be veto the HUD bills, and HUD would shut down, and nobody would notice.

              1. I seen no shifting to the D side because of the shutdowns*. What I did see was a loss of faith in the R side (leading to the “what difference does it make” attitude) because the folded instead of holding the line at the shutdown.

                I don’t know about you, but I voted in my representatives because I WANTED a “party of No” in control, and am highly irritated at those who continue to kowtow to the liberals, rather than represent the constituents that elected them.

                *Shutdown? really? Less than fifteen percent of the government, almost all of it nonessential, is a shutdown? Speaking for myself, I would have like to seen the shutdown made permanent.

                1. because the folded instead of holding the line at the shutdown.

                  It is deeper than that. They now preemptively fold to avoid the damage a shutdown would do even after the 2014 elections.

                  It is as though they believe they would have had veto proof majorities in both houses in 2015 except the shutdown in 2013 limited to merely their 85 year high water mark in Congress.

                  The GOP Congress is now basically a rubber stamp for whatever Obama wants enough to say, “shutdown”.

              2. I was just going to post very much the same thing. The GOP needs to prioritize and pass appropriations for critical governmental departments. Peer -e-frigging-id.

                Pass Defense. Battle the president over the details, but let this be a standalone battle, and pick a Representative and s Senator to be the public face of the battle. That would be Mac Thornberry in the House I don’t see anybody else in that committee I recognise) and from the Senate either Ron Johnson (Chairman) or (my personal pick) Joni Ernst. Let’s see who wins the battle for public perception between Col. Senator Ernst and White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest.

                Pass Treasury appropriations. Allocate extra funds for IG investigation of IRS abuses, possibly making full funding contingent with complete cooperation.

                Commerce, do the same.

                Put the Planned Parenthood stuff in HUD or EPA — let the White House shut down those departments all day and all night long.

                These do not require White House nor Democrat cooperation — appropriations bills are not subject to filibuster. A presidential veto make clear he is the one holding his breath until the government turns blue … and denying funding to the Dept. of Education is far from the worst outcome the GOP could want.

                But all of that requires getting out from behind those damnable CRs … and NOT cutting some sort of “grand bargain” budget for the remainder of this administration.

                1. BTW — if you really want to a) balance the budget and b) reduce the size of gummint, spending cuts is the ONLY route to that destination. Tax reform is nice but it gets you to simpler, fairer taxes (for certain values of simpler, fairer and for limited time only) not to a more restrained government.

                  All (discretionary) spending starts in the House, so all limits on it also start there.

              3. The House did pass appropriations bills for the various departments. Harry Reid has been holding them hostage in the Senate in the hopes of getting the sequester caps lifted.

                1. My error — I thought appropriations were not subject to filibuster, but that must only be for reconciliation.

                  Reid to block spending bills
                  In an attempt to force Republicans to the negotiating table, he’s planning to block the entire appropriations process.
                  By RACHAEL BADE and JOHN BRESNAHAN 06/04/15

                  Yet another argument for going ahead and tanking the filibuster, or at the very least force Reid and company to stand in the well of the Senate and run their mouths bloody explaining why they don’t want to vote on these appropriations under normal order procedures.

                  It should be noted that the MSM, in blaming Republicans for any shut down and ignoring Reid’s role in this are playing a very partisan role (some news, eh?) and should not get off unscathed. Of course, the reason the MSM is so opposed to the Citizens United ruling is that it impairs their ability to control messaging for their party.

                  Just one more proof that the old joke is right:
                  How To be Boss
                  When the body was first made, all the parts wanted to be the boss.

                  The brain said, “since I control everything and do all the thinking, I
                  should be the boss.”

                  The feet said, “since I carry man where he wants to go and get him in
                  position to do what the brain wants, then I should be the boss.”

                  The hands said, “since I must do all the work and earn all the money
                  to keep the rest of you going, I should be the boss.”

                  And so it went with the eyes, the heart, the lungs, and all the other
                  parts of the body, each giving the reason why they should be the

                  Finally, the [Reid] spoke up and said it was going to be the boss.

                  All the other parts laughed and laughed at the idea of the
                  [Reid] being the boss. The [Reid] got so angry that he blocked
                  himself off and refused to function.

                  Soon the brain was feverish and could barely think, the feet felt
                  like lead weights and was almost too weak to drag the body anywhere,
                  the eyes grew bleary, and the hands hung useless at the sides. All
                  pleaded with the brain to let the [Reid] be declared the boss.

                  And so it happened; all the other parts did all the work and the
                  [Reid] just bossed and passed out a lot of [Obamacare].

                  THE MORAL: You don’t have to be a brain to be a boss, just an old

                  Alternate moral: No matter how well things are going, it can all be
                  shut down by a single [Reid].

                  Courtesy: spunk[DOT]org/texts/humour/sp001525[DOT]html

                  1. So why is the Nuclear Option “off the table” for Senate consideration of appropriation bills? Let honor most holy Senatorial precedent here and feed Harry the fruits of his labors.

                    Seems like this is one of those “cut the red tape” “do the people’s business” “lets get Congress working again” things that the country-club Rs could actually get behind.

                    I have no conception of what level of nekkid photos the Ds would have to have featuring congressional R leadership to end up with the decisions said leadership delivers for months on end.

                    Maybe that explains Newt’s run – they didn’t bother to gather nekkid blackmail photos of such a longshot back bencher, so when he won the revolution and overturned 40+ years of R-side “compromise means we give up” they didn’t have a handle to twist that connected on the other end to him.

                    1. So why is the Nuclear Option “off the table” for Senate consideration of appropriation bills?

                      Because we’re Republicans and we care about…well something other than doing what we promised to do.

          2. Depends on if it is a GOP House and Senate or not. I think a GOP Congress would give him whatever he wanted if he was smart enough to threaten a shutdown.

            Of course, I doubt he is that smart.

          3. He WAS honest about it, until he started getting ready to run— haven’t you seen the facebook memes his guys have been pumping out? Even some simi-conservative folks have been sharing them with “heck yeah” type comments.

            Even when they’re honest, they’re not honest– our open socialist city coucil member:
            “They have already spent $7 billion of our economy’s wealth on this,” Sawant added. “I would ask everybody to imagine how differently $7 billion could be used if we spent it on renewable energy.”

            OUR economy’s wealth?

            And I suppose that money just evaporated when it was spent, too?

            1. Sawant seems to presume that spending $7 billion on renewable energy would have any different results from spending $7 billion on perpetual motion machines. But I may be giving too much credit.

              1. My snark was that $7 billion on oil exploration will keep circulating, rather than get funneled into the black hole of her campaign funds.

                Is that more or less credit?

              2. There is a significant difference: spending $7 billion on perpetual motion machines only leaves us $7 billion poorer.

        2. The Clintons are the Boba Fetts of Machiavellian politics. They have this aura of badassed competence, but if you really look closely, you have to wonder what they have ever done to deserve the reputation.

          And if you’re reading between the lines, you’ll see the media is getting ready to shut down the Clintons down permanently- with the full cooperation of the Obama faction.

          1. For all the noise about how the GOP is tearing itself apart, the Dems are caught in a truly vicious fight over the spoils. I would not be at all surprised to see this turn to bloodshed.

            1. It’s about which faction will wind up with control of the Democratic party. If Hillary wins the nomination, the Obama faction is pretty much out. But, even if Bernie gets the nod, and loses, the Obama faction can hold onto the party for the next 4 years of so.
              Because we’re coming off of a two term Democratic presidency, it’s a good chance they will lose in 2016- thus the lack of talent on the Democratic bench.

  14. I do love print books, even as I revel in the electronic revolution. Being surrounded by bookshelves in my personal library gives me the warm, happy feeling of a dragon with a luxurious hoard of gold to wallow on 😉 I love the old leather-bound books, like the volume of poems I have that is actually stuffed with horsehair so the cover is soft and yielding, with deeply carved flowers in the leather and gold edging on the heavy cream paper. I learned how to repair and rebind books, so I could rescue old ones. But that is just my personal foible, and like my loathing of raw tomatoes, I do not expect anyone else to follow suit.

    In the end, the *story* is the thing we crave. A beautifully bound book of anodyne prose is not going to be read. A ripping yarn is great even if it is a multi-generation photocopy with a big butterfly clip holding the pages together. Reading a good book I completely forget the medium it is conveyed in.

    Story. Gimmie the story, and nobody gets hurt.

    1. I’m with you. I also love the feel of a book in my hands. Power outages are not unheard of in my area, and a phone or tablet will only run so long on battery. That said, when I go to sea, I take only one or two print books and load up the tablet with the rest. The Navy gets rather unreasonable about expecting me to give priority to uniforms and other required kit in my locker, for some foolish reason… 🙂

      I also prefer ebooks for research ; e.g., I’m a member of The Royal Manticoran Navy, the official Honor Harrington fan association. One of the things the organization runs is a series of exams that draw on the books among other sources. It’s a lot easier to Ctrl-F in the text of an ebook than flip through the pages while muttering, “I could swear it was in chapter 33… where the $#^&*) is it?!?!”

  15. I wouldn’t know about lying with numbers — I’m an accountant.

    As for the other things in today’s post … as was long ago written by the Prophet Nilsson, “You see what you want to see and you hear what you want to hear.”

    Most people can’t accept revision of the world as they know it, so they refuse to see that which would open their eyes.

    1. As an accountant, you don’t have to lie. The GAAP lets you determine what value of “truth” you’re working with at any given time.

  16. Of course, print books have a certain amount of memorabilia value. I have a list of books with instruction to by wife/children NOT to garage sale on my death. I have a few signed first editions by some of the big-names of the past. I have seen similar of ebay sold for three figures. I did not buy the books as an investment, and I don’t keep them for their monetary value. I do enjoy having a personalized copy of a favorite book.

  17. I don’t think the publishers understand their customers…at all. I don’t think they’ve ever met anyone on the street that actually reads. If you’ve ever met a read you’ll understand that they WANT to publicize the good books they’ve read. They want to LOAN that book to their friends to get them as excited about it as they are. And what happens then? Well the friend goes out and starts buying up that author too! But to the publishers, a loan means a lost sale rather than a free introduction to a new customer.

    Between the publishers insisting on high prices ($10 or more for a backlist book that came out 30, 40 or more years ago? You’re nuts), DRM and no/extremely limited ability to share with a friend, they are really trying to kill eBooks. And it makes little sense to me. Yes, yes, I know the books still have to be edited and proofed and marketed, yadda yadda, but once it’s been done for one format, just how much more work is it to put it in another format? How many publishers are still printing books by hand setting type? Most of them have automated that stuff. By their own admission they make more profit off an eBook than a physical book at the same price, yet they want to encourage the less profitable format? And the quality of the books, both in content and material, seems to be slipping lately. It’s like they are all crack heads or something.

    I’m almost to the point where I’m ready to say ‘let them go broke’ since that’s what they seem to want to do so terribly much.

    1. Takes me three hours to typeset a book, using no adobe products and back-route methods because no adobe products. I imagine it’s less than an hour for a trained person with the right products.

    2. One of the problems (especially at big imprints) is that publishing companies are run by people who don’t read books. The front-line editors, sure. But they’re at the bottom of the turtle pile. The guys at the top see books as just another product, and never both to study the peculiarities of the industry. Worse, they talk only to each other, and endlessly reinforce their misunderstandings about the industry. I think that’s what the current passion for warehouse space is about: Somebody in high places said, “Ebook sales are down! Print sales are therefore going to skyrocket! Quick, grab warehouses before everybody else does!” Of course, by the next day everybody is out shopping for warehouses.

      That will not end well.

      1. On the contrary, it will be quite good for us readers. Politically correct but incompetent people will no longer have a seat at the table. Prices will come down as rights are bought at fire-sales.

        For employees and shareholders of publishing companies? Not so much.

        1. So does anyone have a list of publicly traded pub house stocks that random interent denizens who are not even reading here (Hello, SEC investigators!) could short in their fantasy stock portfolios?

          1. “The markets can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent” is probably the only correct thing Keynes said regarding economics.

      2. Studies have shown that when you get paid for doing what was a hobby your enjoyment of that falls; your subconscious knows you are doing this because you are paid to, not because you want to.

        When you consider the amount of unreadable material any editor must consume daily it is no surprise that those who climb into the upper echelons no longer enjoy reading.

        As for the rush for warehouse space — anybody else recall when Johnny Carson made a joke about shortages of toilet paper? Or howzabout the skyrocketing prices paid for the first issue of “Howard the Duck”?

        Psst, buddy – I can get you a great deal on some tulips!

        1. There are other elements, too. Like the necessity to edit means that you acquire the imp at the back of the mind making comments like, “Unnecessary use of progressive voice,” or “That was inadequately foreshadowed,” or “Ooo — nice touch having that prince arrive late to the banquet so the dazzled new arrival, amazed by everything, still has a reason to notice him in particular.”

          Happens to writers, too. Even lackadaisical ones.

      3. The whole “warehouse space” thing bugs me. A warehouse costs money. The product stuck in the warehouse costs money. The warehouse workers cost money. And it just keeps on costing money; it’s additional overhead that has to be factored into the cost of every sale.

        If they’re actually going to warehouse books, one would assume (…that word…) that there’s some reason for it. Larger print runs isn’t the answer; inventory tax and warehousing costs killed that stone dead thirty years ago. And when few print runs sell out, making even bigger ones would be counterproductive.

        On the other hand, most corporations are top-down organizations; it only takes one person’s bad decisions to kick over the whole system.

    3. Pragmatic Press openly discusses how from one set of electronic files (including a complex makefile) they can create new versions of their books for all eBook formats and to create print run with one make command.

      Now, they are a programming company so the idea of make is native to them and they use some form of TeX which I’m sure helps immensely but there is no reason that could not be true at the majors. Given there is a lot less to format and fit in a novel than a complex technical book (fewer illustrations and no index for example) it should be straight forward.

        1. It is useful information for the budding indie authors who are interested in both eBook and POD though.

          Knowledge that can make things better than current methods will be used. The question is if incumbent makers or new ones will do so.

  18. I was talking to a friend a few years ago, and her publisher had told her that they had no idea how this whole ebook thing worked, how to put their books up on it.
    I asked her to tell her publisher that I’d be happy to come in for a few months and teach them all how to do it, write up a process, everything. She did, but they decided not to do it, and I think only recently they may have finally entered the ebook market. (This is one of the big houses)
    NONE of the people in the publishing business understand technology, none of them. They’re all liberal arts majors apparently.

    Also, that whole bit about not knowing how many copies of whatever book they published sold? I cannot believe that, not for an instant, that’s a lie. You know how many copies you printed. You know how many went out, you know how many came back, and you know how much money you got paid. It’s simple book keeping, and you have to know, so you can not only stay in business, but so you can pay your taxes (which if you don’t do accurately, you go to jail).
    If these companies really don’t know just how much of their product they are selling, then they really do deserve to go out of business.

    1. John, I am a corporate accountant and trust me, you would be appalled at how much is done by estimate (except we call it “accrual” so as to keep the uninformed uninformed.)

      It is a necessary way of dealing with what Hayek termed the Problem of Knowledge — the delays in receiving and processing data are non-trivial and largely irreducible (the costs of such reduction typically exceed the benefits.) There are also the issues of error in reporting, such as the minimum wage book distributor employee who accidentally put the “2” in the tens column instead of the ones column when calculating the number of books shipped.

      Precision is an illusion and one of the surest signs of corporate funny-business. Taxes are based on estimates, as well, except we call it statistical sampling: counting the inventory of a representative fraction of the warehouse and projecting to the whole. For such purposes it is largely irrelevant whether the warehouse contents are 1 million copies of Harry potter and the New Sequel or of 1,001 Uses For a Dead Tree — all the taxman wants to know is “How much stuff you got in there?”

  19. A note on the weirdnesses of file piracy: When I was doing Paraglyph Press six or seven years ago, I would look for pirate sites and ask them (always politely) to take our computer books down. It was interesting how willing they were to answer my questions about piracy politely, even cordially. (I suspect they were so used to publishers threatening them with bodily harm that a polite request was startling.) I learned a few things:

    1. There is a class of people called “torrent hoarders” who download everything in sight, stash it on a 1.5 TB hard drive, and never look at it again. This is true irrespective of content type: movies, TV shows, software, ebooks, porn, everything. So counting torrents tells us almost nothing about whether our books are actually being read by pirates. Most aren’t. They seem to do it to brag that “I have everything ever published about Star Trek,” or “I have every episode of every season of Dukes of Hazzard.” I guess it works for them.

    2. Related to the above: Content files are used as a sort of virtual currency in a bizarre economy of torrent sharing on invitation-only private torrent tracker sites. I’m not sure I completely understand the system, but it works something like this: On private members-only torrent trackers, you have to maintain an even or positive upload-to-download ratio, or you’re considered a leecher and tossed out. In other words, if other members aren’t uploading stuff from your machine, you won’t be allowed to download stuff from theirs. The type of “stuff” doesn’t matter. Only the ratio matters. So members scour the Net for whatever they can find and make it available, terabytes and terabytes of it, in the hope that somebody in the torrent tracker membership will download enough of it to enable them to stay in the tracker. (I was told that a lot of the files come from stolen PCs, tablets, and smartphones.) So again, your books are not being read in proportion to how often they’re passed around. In essence, the pirates are using your books to pay for episodes of Big Bang Theory.

    3. There is, as you might expect, a lot of technical screwing-around to be done to be a file pirate. Few people have ever heard of Usenet, and fewer still have the tech chops to know how to grab files from it. Torrenting isn’t as simple as it sounds, especially once you get into the details of doing it without getting caught. My intuition is that it’s a sort of specialized nerd club, and relatively few people traffic in billions of files, few of which are ever even opened.

    My conclusion: Piracy is a noisy weirdness that has little effect on ebook sales. This is especially true if you’re an obscure author. J. K. Rowling is pirated a lot. Jeff Duntemann, not so much. I’ve simply stopped worrying about it.

    1. I would say that this is normally true.

      But as I mentioned elsewhere, if you are writing in a small niche market (which I used to do on the side) and suddenly your sales drop by more than half on all the products you’re selling in that market, and you find that on the same day your sales stopped that some ‘helpful’ people decided to share all of those works with all of the people in that niche market, your only real choice is to stop writing in that market.

      The lesson I learned, is do not to write for small markets.

      When I was doing it for fun, it was annoying, but I wasn’t doing it for the money. Now that I -am- doing it for the money, I can’t waste that time anymore.

      1. Well, there’s also the possibility of Kickstarter — you release the work if and only if fans pony up in advance.

        Which might really reveal their preferences.

        1. Yes, and I may give it a shot, if enough interest surfaces over time. I know a number of comic book artists in that same market, and many of them have gone to kickstarter or go fund me, or patreon. They will no longer produce anything, unless paid up front.
          I used to wonder why they did it, never thought to ask.
          Now I know.

        2. Greg Stolze had a great deal of success with one of his RPGs this way. He’d come out and say “I have 10,000 words written for Reing covering X, Y, and Z” and you have 30 days to raise $X on my funding site (don’t remember which…was mostly a decade ago). Make it and it goes up free. Don’t make it and it never comes out.

          Got as good or better a run than most games get. I only contributed a couple of times but each time a healthy amount because I’d gotten other supps due to other contributors and figured now that I had the money it was my turn.

    2. Piracy risks should be evaluated according to practical cost-benefit analysis. If you have only $5,000 worth of stealable assets in your house, it makes little sense to invest in a $20,000 security system (unless you are anticipating goods of greater value in short order.) As Jeff notes, the cost of stuff lost to piracy does not, in most cases, merit aggressive action to protect against such loss. We’re talking the tchotchkes on the checkout counter, not crown jewels.

    3. They seem to do it to brag that “I have everything ever published about Star Trek,” or “I have every episode of every season of Dukes of Hazzard.” I guess it works for them.

      Or something like “I have every TSR adventure for D&D 1st edition published just in case someone wants to run all of the Slavers-Giants-Drow series in 20 minutes so I don’t have to find used copies.”


        1. Pretty much…if I were a torrent collector of RPGs I might have collected and never read most of them in case someone ever wanted to play that game. Some others might be to replace old books lost in many moves (like, say, Superhero 2044) or impossible to find and long out of print (I have much lowers qualms about something 20+ years out of print…if the authors thought it was salable I figure it would be at DTRPG by now).

          That said, when it comes to running games I want physical copies at the table or at least selectively printed sections of books. I’m also becoming a fan of spiral bound printings of RPG pdfs.

        1. Actually, I’ve seen them with pretty much everything TSR printed. The “All TSR D&D” one somehow also got all of Gamma World.

          It is a way to view love of a game. Bunnies and Burrows is out there but little of Boot Hill or Gangbusters.

    4. “Content files are used as a sort of virtual currency in a bizarre economy of torrent sharing on invitation-only private torrent tracker sites. I’m not sure I completely understand the system…”

      Alas, you do not. The “ratio” number means how much a torrent user uploads, but it doesn’t have to be new material, a torrent program uploads and downloads at the same time, once a block of data is downloaded, it can then be uploaded to other people downloading the same file. And after it is finished downloading, if the user keeps it as an active torrent, it becomes part of the “cloud” for other users. A typical torrent will be downloading from a dozen or more places at once while also uploading to another dozen. Or, once all down, it becomes part of the uploading group. Clever hack, actually.

      1. I appreciate the clarification; this is not something I have a lot of hands-on with. See if this works better: I meant “new” here in the sense of “stuff other members don’t have already.” Once the other guys download it and have it, they stop downloading it, and the seeder’s ratio goes down. Hence the constant search for new stuff to seed to keep the ratio up and remain in the private tracker.

        Torrents are indeed among the cleverest hacks in all networking.

        1. Yes, but remember, most circles have new individuals joining all the time so popular material, especially that with a long period of popularity, will retain value.

  20. I had been lusting after a kindle for a year before my late-hubby finally told me to get it. It would be my birthday present, Christmas present, and anniversary gift. So I got it. I haven’t put it down since. 🙂

    AND I am one of those paper and ink types. lol

  21. “I don’t know what the percentage of people is who drove madly across town to Borders, went in five minutes before closing, and bought out an entire shelf of material…”

    This is eerily familiar. Is Portugal actually a parallel universe populated by offshoots of my family!?

    I’ve also found myself scrambling (desperately) for something to read after finishing a book halfway through lunch. (Curse the 40 pages of previews and backmatter! {I really don’t like reading the preview of a book that’s “coming soon.” Really don’t.}) I’ve rushed in and out of a book store on my way to lunch because I forgot my book. My carry-on for flying back and forth to the sandbox was a healthy stack of books (stuffed tightly), oh, and I guess I better squeeze my passport in somewhere… I could easily build a paper mortar revetment in my hooch.

    I finally went to a Kindle after a couple of bookalanches and the growing concern over finding my dog buried by the TBR pile.

    I’m 98% digital now. The 2% is books other people hand me. Well, and art and reference books.

    I find myself in awe of the marketing geniuses and their chosen pricing algorithms. I was recently reminded of a book I had read and enjoyed when it first came out. Picked it up on a whim. Now it’s a series, cool! Immediately jumped on Amazon to grab the next book — $12 for a 5 year old ebook?

    Hmph. Used market. The individual that reminded me? Read ’em all in the library.

    Let’s just mark those down as lost sales, shall we? But, hey! Your digital sales definitely didn’t take away from your print sales, so win, right??

    Traditional publishing sees ebook sales falling, surely print sales must be rising! (They can’t know, they use an accounting model that’d disgust the produce manager at a large grocery store.) UhHuh.

    I predict big things for tradpub. BIG things.

  22. I wouldn’t put much stock in boasts of increasing warehouse size, for if you’ll notice, each instance is of expanding one warehouse by each of the named publishers. Increased print demand would show up as expanding warehouse space across the board. I strongly suspect that there has been a decrease in warehouse space elsewhere, to the point where it’s more cost effective to expand one facility than to maintain a mostly empty larger facility. That would indicate a contraction of sales and tying a ribbon on the pig where it won’t spook shareholders.

    Nor would I put much stock in talk of expanding distribution. That’s because one or more print distributors have gone belly up in the last few years. Expanding distribution may be a way of getting books where they would have gone otherwise, or even a shifting business model.

    There’s just not enough data to draw any conclusions. OTOH, when data is fuzzy, there’s usually a reason …

    1. No, they will need that new warehouse space: Where else will they keep all the unordered production plus the unsold returns?

      Seriously, if someone in the semiconductor industry pitched me on more warehouses = profit! I’d likely pass out from laughing so hard I forgot to breathe. Most everything is as close to just-in-time as possible all the way down the supply chain in every industry I know about. I cannot imagine how, with modern print technology, and effectively static source files for producing more copies of HitSurpriseBestSeller, that warehouse space would be on anyones critical path list.

  23. And now I have no tablet (other than the medicinal variety, yes) nor e-reader and the cellphone is of.. limited appeal for reading. So logically the thing to do is read on a computer – but I run Linux, so things are apt to have some complications. However, given the nature of this group, I suspect any issue I might encounter have been resolved by some here. I am happy to ‘RTFM’ if someone would kindly point me at TFM to R. Thank you.

    1. “Linux” covers a lot of ground, but if you’re running KDE, just click on the .epub or .pdf file in Konqueror and it comes right up in the window.

      I have no idea how to get an Amazon ebook to your local drive without going through their Kindle software. Amazon was unhelpful last time I looked, and I realized I didn’t care for having them looking over my shoulder anyway.

  24. I have a simple question (well, hopefully simple):

    When one is discussing how ebook prices should be less than paperback prices, do they mean the general 7.99–9.99US that seems common, or do they mean less than the current price for the latest edition? Say a hardcover is released at 24.99, would an ebook price of 17.99 be acceptable until the mmp comes out?


    1. Speaking as a reader, nope, ebook prices should be less than US average paperbacks in the US market regardless of the current edition.

      In ebooks I’m paying for the story not the format (in the sense I won’t pay a premium for the digital format), and I have no interest in conspicously subsidizing a high-cost format.

      Overcharging for digital simply means I won’t be gracing the initial release period with a sale.

      I like books. I like special formats and gorgeous covers and creamy paper. But those are a seperate commodity from the story, for me. I cannot support my story habit at special format prices — not least because I cannot afford to house them! So I reserve the special format budget for special works I already know and love.

      A new story isn’t going to pull more than an average mmp price out of my wallet.

      1. I don’t mind publishers who want to charge high prices when a book first comes out. I mind publishers who KEEP the prices high.

        There are only a handful of series which will pull hardcover price out of my wallet because I want them so badly, but they exist (Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden, Lee & Miller’s Liaden Universe, David Weber’s Honor Harrington, Lois Bujold’s Vorkosigan, Wen Spencer’s Elfhome, Charles Stross’s Laundry, plus a couple others which my *husband* loves enough not to wait for.) Several others series *could* but don’t come out in hardcover. In all cases, it’s a *series* — I don’t have any authors I follow closely enough to buy everything they read at full price. It takes a character and a world I love to be unable to wait another year or two for the softcover.

        (Okay, technically the Baen books pull e-arc price out of my wallet, not hardcover price, but it amounts to much the same; I’m Impatiently Waiting for the e-arc of Bujold’s _Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen_ to come out, though I figure it’ll most likely be another month or six weeks.)

        In any case, if it’s worth an extra $15 (because I buy the monthly packages anyway) to get the book 3 months early from Baen, I don’t see why it can’t be worth an extra $10 to get the book with the hardback from a different publisher. (Mind you, it usually isn’t. I never bought many hardbacks and I don’t buy many series at full-price. But when reading something would have been worth a hardcover book, it’s worth an ebook at hardcover pricing. At least the ebook is small enough to fit in my purse. I *hated* hardbacks before ebooks came out: I have to pay three times the price and I get a form factor I dislike because it’s a luggable rather than a portable and it takes up twice the space on my shelves.)

        What I do mind is (1) having the price for the physical copy less than the price of the ebook, and (2) publishers failing to drop the price of the ebook when they should. When the last book in the series came out ten years ago, you’re NOT likely to pick up any additional readers at the current price point. Drop the price already. Make the first book free or nominal and the rest half-price. DO something. It won’t steal sales from your current catalog. No one’s desperate from a book from a specific publisher, and the people who just want a good book for under $5 are going indie.

        1. I don’t mind publishers who want to charge high prices when a book first comes out. I mind publishers who KEEP the prices high.

          Eh. I used to mostly be okay with it. Not so much now. I think elevated prices on special formats are fine and reasonable, I just disagree with delaying the rest of the publishing schedule to try and capture a few more buyers at the higher price-point. It’s bad business.

          Not to mention tossing cold-water on the marketing holy grail: word’o’mouth.

          Now, in my mind Baen’s eARC is the right way to take advantage of early adopters. They’re upfront about it: Hey, here’s the not-ready-for-print manuscript, we’ve ebooked it, we’re not done with it, but if you really feel like you’ve got to throw money at us to have it RIGHT NOW, we’ll sell it to you, at a premium to discourage your crazy addiction… 😈

          They’re not artificially elevating the price to bolster another format, they’re charging a premium on a privilege. Oh, and getting a jump-start on the marketing holy grail with the group mostly likely to run off at the word’o’mouth.

      2. Okay, for you the value of a hardcover is the visual and physical aspect (which I totally understand. I love feeling the heft of a hardcover.) The story (plus ebook conversion stuff) costs less, and you don’t want to pay for more.

        1. Pretty much. The value of story and processing seems to sit fairly naturally under $10 for the largest portion of readers, regardless of actual format. (It’s called a mass market paperback…)

          To my mind, elevating the price of the ebook while the HB is in its run, and keeping it high while the trade PB settles in, and only considering dropping it when the MMPB rolls out is akin to charging $24.99 for the MMPB concurrently published with the HB.

          Why would I pay a premium for a special format I don’t want?

          Ebooks offer a significantly more supple market advantage to content producers, in my mind, because they can (largely, let’s assume they’ve dealt with fixed overheads and other wonderful accounting esoterica across their product line accordingly, every other retailer has.) price by size.

          I don’t want to pay MMPB prices for a short novella, not because I don’t value short novellas, but because I’m getting less engaged time for my money. Same holds true for some mixed anthologies, I frequently don’t care to read some of the authors included.

          But I’ll happily pay a reasonable fraction of MMPB for novellas and individual short stories.

          The HB/TPB/MMPB publishing schedule takes advantage of the early adopter/rabid fan-base at the cost of sales velocity and growing readerships, I think. I’ve got several new releases on my wishlist right now, hoping I’ll remember them when the MMPB finally comes out (and the ebook price finally drops) because I simply cannot support my habit at HB prices. Each of those would be a guaranteed sale on release date (Yay, pre-order!) with a realistic ebook price. Some fraction of those are likely to be completely lost sales because my list is ever-growing and they’ll slip out of my mind, probably until I run across them used…

          That’s ridiculous.

          There are ways to capitalize on early adopters/rabid fans without killing sales velocity (see Baen). There are certainly ways to capitalize on those who value a special format (see Subterranean Press, lately re-releasing all of the Dresden Files novels in special HB editions, years after the MMPB.)

          Trying to hold one group of buyers hostage in an attempt to bolster sales in another category? Not the way.

          1. One other factor worth considering: readers late arrived at a series (say, not discovering Dresden Files until book 10) the likelihood is they started with the cheapest available/acceptable edition. So, having bought the first ten books in PPB your typical anal-retentive OCD reader is likely to not buy the HB at any price because of shelving or other considerations. That is a market you can only reach by offering special editions (see: Baen omnibus editions) or deluxe reprints.

            Of course, when the first printings of a series (e.g., MHI were in PPB) the a-r OCD are simply SOL.

            1. I dealt with twitchy brain on this frequently when reading paper. My habit was to try new authors used, and then buy new if I like ’em.

              But I REALLY want my formats to match on the shelves…

                1. I mix and match, due to space constraints. With a little more room, I’d probably lose myself in obsession.

            2. I have actually not finished purchasing a series because they changed the style of the books. For series that go to HC after starting in PPB, I’ll library (or ebook) asap, and wait until the matching PPB comes out later. If the publisher changes the style completely? I’ve not purchased.

              I still haven’t finished the Gaiman Sandman series because I couldn’t find the same style of graphic novels.

            1. *snort!*

              While I doubt Jim Butcher is going to notice the dip in his sales velocity because I didn’t pre-order (surely lost in the noise of the stampede), it’s a fine example of a publisher adamantly refusing to understand the market. Or, really, any market.

              Butcher is one of those examples where I’d confidently say they could release the ebook at $9.99 concurrently with the $25 HB and see no drop in sales. Very likely an increase. People would be ordering the new HB to stick in their collection and grabbing the ebook to read NOW! DANGIT! with the added value of not having to crack the spine on their new pretty.

              And, you know, there’d be you and me snatching up the ebook. NOW! DANGIT!

              But — wouldn’t want to increase sales. Bad for business…

              1. But — wouldn’t want to increase sales. Bad for business…

                I understand that if you increase sale too much the authors get uppity, start thinking the sales are about them and what they’re doing rather than the important contributions of the editing, production and marketing people who are the ones who really sell the book.

                1. Think of the mess that would make of the work day! Who has time to schedule extra “crushing the author’s spirits” sessions?

                  1. I think that trad pubs (excepting Baen) are Marxists and don’t have the 1st idea of how to run a business and/or they’re a bureaucracy and they don’t want to/are unable to do something new.

      3. The publishers have long maintained that they keep little more than they give the author; the vast printing and distribution expenses are what keeps the price of printed books so high.

        Now they’re hoist on their own petard…

        1. I have much sympathy.

          Really. I know I saw a moldy box of sympathy in the garage the other day, probably sitting on top of my box of extra f***s…

    2. Unless you’re an established author, I’d put them up for the impulse buy price of $5-6. I will (and have) spend that on nothing more than the cover pic and the description. Anything north of that, though, I’m going to want to know that I’m going to enjoy the story. Anything much more than $10 and I’m most likely going to shell out for the hardcover.

      Of course, everyone has a different level for “impulse buy.” Trump can blow $20 on a book and not even notice, while for others $5 represents most of that day’s food budget. But I’d suspect the fat part of the bell curve is somewhere in the $3-5 dollar range. I’m sure someone has studied this.

      1. My Official Impulse Buy range is up to $5, but in reality it’s up to $10 on a sliding scale. Anything under $2 I’ll buy on a tempting description or because I’ve liked a couple previous books from that author; up to $5 I’ll buy with a good description and a recommendation. I sometimes buy a book as much as $9.99 on the spot, but it’s got to have a recommendation and a good description AND be just what I’m in the mood for this instant — or have a good description and be from an author I trust. Usually anything over $5 (and everything over $10) goes into my Kindle Books wish list on Amazon, and once in a blue moon I comb through that wish list to find things which are what I’m in the mood for right now, or which have dramatically decreased in price.

        1. I do have certain ebook authors that I have a price cap on. I know that said author doesn’t do anything new on the 3rd or 4th novella in a series, and I won’t pay more than 3.99.
          I am willing to spend more for more pages. I’ll pay up to $10 for a 300,000 word story, but not for a novella.

        2. I have longed for Amazon to allow a bid price. There are things I am eager to purchase but only at a targeted price — say, a DVD of Ant-Man, but only when it hits the $10 range. Right now my choices are to keep a more or less constant eye on it, drop it in my Amazon shopping cart and monitor the price fluctuations (of which Amazon will advise me daily) or just forget about it and hope the Serendipity Fairy will strike.

          A bid price would allow me to convey to sellers that a market of definable size exists at $X for their product. Whether the seller wants to take advantage of that market by dropping their price (if only temporarily) or retain their established price is up to the publisher.

          It would also facilitate identification of items not currently available for which there exists a sizable market, such as a region 1 set of Maid Marian and Her Merry Men, featuring Tony Robinson and Danny John-Jules, or a DVD of Stepping Out, a little known Liza Minelli (eh) film featuring dynamite performances by Bill Irwin, Shelley Winters and Julie Walters (Mrs. Weasely from the Potter films.) (What – you don’t watch stuff for the supporting cast?)

            1. I haven’t seen the two way system used in many – it’s usually a simple auction system – but I know Three Rings’ Puzzle Pirates uses a matching system like that for the doubloon exchange (trading in-game currency for micro-transaction currency) so that buyers and sellers can see what the over all supply and demand curves look like at the moment. It’s one of many features they included I’ve always admired. A simple, silly MMO with some of the best game design and innovative thinking I’ve seen.

          1. Time was when Amazon would alter its offered discount based on what you had browsed. That lasted until someone noticed that erasing your cookies would lower the price and a firestorm ensued.

            I think they may be wary of reactions.

            1. A few years ago I noticed eBay gave me different buy-it-now prices depending on which browser I was using at the time… they might have been playing some kind of cookie game too.

          2. I use my wish list kind of like that: It’s not items I necessarily want right now, or want at the current price, but is a way to remember to check those items in a year or so. So the turkish apple tea is saved for the day I’m off low-carb, the dress is saved for when I’m down to size *mumble*, and the books are saved for when the mmpb comes out and I recheck the price.

            1. That be right handy, thanky kindly.

              FAQ: a single link will go through without hesitation, more than one link goes into moderation. Corrupted links (e.g., http://www.Amazon[DOT]com) go through but are inactive.

              Certain links seem a trifle inconsistent. Youtube usually puts up a playable image of the video but seems to require the link be on its own line and not embedded. Pictures seem to only go up when it is a .jpg link and are best as a single line rather than embedded. Sometimes WP will accept several pictures thus linked in a single comment without requiring moderation. GIF files seem pretty hit and miss, more frequently miss.

              The above advice is admittedly left handy.

              1. Errr… about them corrupted links; best not to put an http or www prefixes as apparently that prevents the [DOT] from working to corrupt.

                Sheesh, learn some new way for WP to bite me in the butt every dang day.

              2. You’re very welcome. I’ve just started my Christmas shopping with the Camel tool. (We have a wonderful nanny / babysitter / home day care — day care run out of our neighbor’s home. I buy gifts for all the kids there. But I don’t actually *know* them that well, so I buy gifts based on “this looks cool and is no more than $5” and stuff several years’ accumulation in a laundry back, dump it out, and let everyone choose one. Creating a $5 notifications list for a list of stuff which just barely *might* come down to $5 sounds very worthwhile, and I noted a few possibilities under $5 while I was at it.)

      2. Now that Jim has a job again, once again I’ll buy any Kindle Daily Deal that takes my fancy (they’re usually $3), though I read reviews carefully first and, of course, read the sample chapter. If I’m searching for a non-Daily-Deal that’s been recommended to me by someone I trust, I’ll go as high as $4.99 for fiction and $9.99 for non-fiction. If anything’s priced higher than that, except for *very, very* special cases, I won’t buy it; I don’t care what it is. I think there’ve been two Very Very Special Cases since I started reading e-books almost exclusively three years ago. One of them was The Lord of the Rings, one of my all-time favorite books, and the other was *Stand in the Trench, Achilles*, a non-fiction work on World War I poets’ use of classical sources, which was precisely up my alley as a double major in Latin and English with a fondness for the war poets,

    3. If you want a simple comparison, go look at the remaindered books, where HB editions are often rendered for less than the PPB cost.

      I suspect e-pub pricing follows its own metric and should not be considered in the same market as dead tree books. The markets are related but, i believe, progressively divergent, just as the market for Special Edition printings is different from that of regular books. People buying that leather-bound, gold-edged edition probably have already long since read the story contained within.

      Interestingly, a recent Amazon purchase of a dead tree book also came with an invitation for the e-pub edition at a discount, running about $2.99 which seems a sort of market bottom for novels.

      1. “Interestingly, a recent Amazon purchase of a dead tree book also came with an invitation for the e-pub edition at a discount, running about $2.99 which seems a sort of market bottom for novels.”

        This is now an option Amazon offers when publishing through CreateSpace. You can discount an ebook to any buyer of the deadtree format.

    4. Depends on who that one person is, and their measurement of acceptable.

      Let’s say we’re talking about myself and Lois Bujold’s next Cordelia Naismith-Vorkosigan novel, Gentleman Joel and the Red Queen. I’ve been reading Bujold for over 20 years, and adore her books. I will buy the E-ARC with all typos intact, and pre-order the hardcover, because she’s one of the few authors I love to curl up with and reread on a day when everything hurts too much to walk. If the typos bother me, I’ll get the ebook as well, and won’t even think twice about the price. $18 for the ebook? It’s Bujold, it’s already bought.

      But now let’s say we’re talking about me and Patricia Briggs’ next book, Fire Marked. She’s a great writer, but her books are like candy to me; I read them once and pass them on. At $18 for the ebook, well, I still haven’t bought Frost Burned, because I could (and did) go buy 5 indie books in the same genre for the same money and enjoy them like candy instead.

      Same customer, same $18 price point, both bestselleing authors, two completely different behaviours… and at the indie price point, I tried an unknown-to-me author brought up in the ‘zon’s also-boughts, sampled the first book, bought it, then proceeded to buy 5 more of her books over the next week.

      Questions about pricing are simple. The answers are really, really complicated, and there’s an entire field called economics that studies it and still gets it drastically wrong from time to time.

      1. I just purchased a $14 ebook but it was the new Jim Butcher book.

        I’d pass on paying that much for an unknown (to me) author.

        As Dorothy says, it depends on the person about “how much is too much for an ebook”.

        1. Where did you see that? The first book in the Cinder Spires series looks to be $13.99 for the Kindle edition. That said, I almost passed on Skin Game and will think thrice before buying more.

          I also bought the first book in Mark Lawrence’s Red Queens War at $7.99, but won’t buy the next at $12.99. Basically, I’m giving up on the Big Authors because the prices are too high. I’m not going to buy used.

      2. Is there any evidence that ebook sales are cutting into the HB sales for a new release? Say a publisher normally sells 100 units of a book in the HB, if they release the ebook at the same time, would they sell 75 HB and 25 ebook? If they are charging dramatically less for said e-book, would that then lose them money?

        I’m assuming that the startup costs of getting manuscript to sellable copy are the same for both.

        1. The costs are drastically different, as are the lead times, because most hardcover is done via offset printing in China and shipped to the US. Thus, you need to build printing and shipping time, as well as distribution and warehouse costs, into hardcover.

        2. There are some stout demographics issues involved here, too. I’m probably sounding like a broken record here, but there aren’t many bookstores outside of urban areas now. So your hardback sales are going to be from the urban/suburban population who have access to those stores, plus sales through Amazon. Roughly 50% of the US population is further from a bookstore than they’re willing to drive.

          Ebooks change the sales demographic from “geographic” to “has a credit card and internet access.” And, for all practical purposes, it’s worldwide, not just some stores in a few dozen cities.

          1. Why would they even want to sell books to the kind of slope-browed morons who live in flyover country? Those people should shut up and be grateful they are given anything more complex than Dick & Jane to read.

            If they were at all smart they would live in cities, wouldn’t they?

            1. The more rabid urbanites screech that everyone should be *forced* to live in cities.

              Leaving aside the question of “why”, they probably wouldn’t find me a congenial neighbor. Pouring molten aluminum into molds, loud machinery, even louder unmuffled race car engines… the way I see it, they ought to pay me to stay away.

              1. For some reason I think they would be unhappy with my having a shooting bench at my bedroom window, and testing various new loads semi-heavily.

              2. I once was sitting next to a woman at a car shop who told me that all of the people who lived out in the country were losers. That anyone who did not live in the city was a loser. Loser, loser, loser.
                She was as dumb as a brick, believed every stupid thing she heard, and I was quite surprised she had survived as long as she had. I just gave up talking to her after a while. Bricks were more intelligent.

  25. This article reminds me of a day when I picked up my Kindle and realized, quite suddenly, that I was reading ebooks far more than the paper variety. For me, this was a tremendous change. I was quite accustomed to paperbacks, and I am a slave to my habits, in many ways. I was stubborn, and resisted ebooks for longer than most.

    The entire ebook model owes a lot to Baen. For it was Baen which first turned me on to ebooks, though mostly because if there is any force greater than habit with me, it is my cheapness. The first time I got my hands on a Baen CD, it was glorious. Dozens of books I had never even heard of, free, at my fingertips. That I later became a Baen devotee (and in a paying sense, too), is proof that Baen’s model worked. Concerns of piracy were quite unfounded, for if you can give a man like me a bunch of free books, and he still tends to buy new releases… well, you’ve converted the cheap-ass into a paying customer. With traditional paperbacks, I was more inclined to peruse the used book stores, so publishers really didn’t make much off me in those days.

    I bought a Kindle a little over a year ago, again mostly to take advantage of free books, book lending, and the like. I never intended for it to replace the paper and ink variety. But then, there it was. One day, dust gathered on my extensive library of paperbacks, and my Kindle was in my hand every night before bed. Now it is habit, and the paperbacks are the occasional exception.

    But I buy mostly indie or Baen books. Again, I’m cheap. And whatever else the indies and Baen may be, they are not usurious. The prices tend to be reasonable. And, at least with Baen, the quality is excellent. Indie is a mixed bag, for there are hidden gems of astounding quality and heaping piles of garbage. But there’s a sort of adventure in it, like the Wild West of book reading. It is exciting, because the major publishers are so formulaic. They prefer authors of certain styles, certain political views, and the like. A clique, in other words. Indie publishing has no such cliques, no rules, no enforced styles or minimum sales requirements.

    I don’t claim that indie publishing is superior, per se. When you see publishers like Baen and Castalia, you know that some can play the game right. Baen has a formula, to be sure, a certain type of story or author that they prefer. But, at the same time, they don’t politicize that experience, nor do they overcharge for it. When you buy a Baen book, you know it is a certain type of a book, and that the quality will be excellent. That’s a privilege worth paying for, from time to time. A lot of other publishers have lost sight of that. They release garbage, so long as it has the right political message. And then they’ll charge a fortune for the garbage, even more in ebook form, sometimes, than in dead tree format. You get no guarantees of quality which, to me, is the primary reason you would prefer traditional publishing to indie.

    I think the future will belong to a mix of both indie and traditional. Call it 50-50, if you will. But the traditional publishers that survive will have to embrace a model like Baen’s: very ebook friendly, inexpensive, and focused on a brand that espouses a curated quality over political posturing and cliquish behavior. And indie publishing will continue to thrive, taking over the niches too small for the traditional publishers, and offering a way in for *anybody* who wants to write. It will be our Wild West, and more fun and interesting for the doing. For me, personally, indie publishing gives me hope that someday I can be a fiction writer as well, or at least one somebody might pay $0.99 to read once in awhile. I would be happy enough with that.

    The old giants? Like you say, Sarah, they’ve missed the memo. The train already left the station, and they are still packing their bags. But I won’t miss them much. For what few products they offer that are still worth buying, I can still find at the local used bookstore for pennies on the dollar.

    1. “They release garbage, so long as it has the right political message.”

      But you see, to them the political message is the sole mark of quality. That’s why things like Ta-Nehisi Coates’ transliteration of Mein Kampf is praiseworthy while Larry Correia is nothing more than a hack writer.

    2. I don’t buy a lot these days, in either wood pulp or electrons. Baen does get my money, though, for two reasons: their free library, which led me to several authors (and later purchases of free library offerings and others), and for their customer support. I once bought a John Ringo hardback with an included Baen CD that turned out to have been removed in the bookstore by some lowlife prior to my purchase. When I inquired how much a replacement CD would cost me, they shipped me one at no cost.

  26. There are several fine insights here, but the foundation beneath all of them is this one: If you refuse to look outside the circle of the familiar, you’ll miss the changes that will make your “knowledge” irrelevant and your “expertise” obsolete.

    Publishing is a case in point. But then, so is everything!

    1. I’ve been doing a lot of business analysis at The Day Job. It’s a new direction for me, so I’ve been studying best practices, strategies, etc. as quickly as my poor grey matter can absorb them. One of the things that gets hammered over and over again is that if you only look at the way things are done now, you’ll only ever make tiny adjustments on the fringes that will not give the business the advantages it needs in the long run. Know what business you are in, distill it to its essence, and work on delivering that as effectively as possible. Don’t get caught up in one implementation. Publishers don’t sell books, they sell stories. If they think they’re selling books they’re going to get it wrong. They’re hardly the first industry to make that mistake (cf. American railway companies).

      *looks down*

      Seriously? Who left a soapbox right here in the entryway?

      1. Ah, there he is! Sneaky fella. Musta been gettin’ a bit lonely, what with being tucked away in the hall closet. Never gets enough attention around here, that poor old soapbox…

        1. Never gets enough attention around here

          With this crowd? *looks around* That is one seriously needy container.

  27. The Back Lot, the music venue behind the used book store (Bargain Book Warehouse) seems to be gone. The store owner decided that a U-Haul business would be a better use of that huge lot.

    1. We haven’t heard from the guy who built the rickety stage; we were scheduled to have concerts by Lita Ford and L. A. Guns (one of the two transplant donors of Guns and Roses) but they just didn’t happen.

      1. We sell books that list at $3.50 or above. The previous book store’s owner was losing money, had to leave the good downtown location, and he decided to move to a warehouse space in the middle of nowhere with no store and no traffic if we started a store ( I tried to make a store space with the old SF and fantasy titles that would otherwise have been tossed, Sarah made a deal and bought them.)

  28. When ebooks first came out, they essentially replaced the mmpb editions. Hardback buyers tend to want the formats on their shelves to match, or to have a bound copy to get the author’s autograph, or to look better when sitting out as a “I’m reading the cool thing” display on the coffee table.

    The prevalence of cheap bookshelves on craigslist is a good sign that the culture is changing, and the ebook adoption is eating into the hardcover market too, now… not just in up-front sales, but in retention of books. Time was, my hardcovers stayed, and the mmpb and trade paper rotated out to the used bookstore on a regular basis (unless it was a book only released in mmpb.) Now, ebook is the preferred format (except for reference and cookbooks), and the hardcovers are going off to the market as well.

    Interesting times.

    1. … or to look better when sitting out as a “I’m reading the cool thing” display on the coffee table.

      I’ve one other factor for HB: dust jackets.

      Probably attributable to youthful trauma(s) but many of the types of books I like reading tend to arrive with lurid covers. Among the very extensive things which I do not want to engage in conversation with other people is the “what’s that you’re reading?” question (nor the “you’re reading that?” question, either.)

      A HB with its dust jacket removed generally carries a high level of anonymity and does not invite such discussions.

        1. I still get “wat’cha readin’?” frequently coupled with “how ya like that thing?”

          At least with the Kindle I can get away with “it’s totally not a paranormal romance/definitely a hard MilSF with extra violence” if I’m having a low-T day…

      1. Then there’s the homemade dust jacket. Got a couple interesting looks in HS carrying On the Construction of Thermonuclear Devices (main cover) aka Nukes for Kooks (spine).

        1. Back in the early 1970s, IIRC, National Lampoon had a series of fake book covers for school books, including one with a bikini-clad young lady running with abandon toward the camera, and the title, “Oh! Calculus!” I always presumed it was at least partly a play on “Oh, Calcutta!”

          I have a fake book cover I bought at a con a few years ago (maybe more than a few years ago) which will transform one of my books into an apparent copy of “Necronomicon for Dummies.”

  29. “Now I know some independent booksellers are making a come back, but I can also tell you there aren’t nearly the numbers of them there were in the late nineties before the chains killed them and before Amazon ate the chains.”

    There are still people who make buggy whips, to. There are probably even a couple who make a good living at it. Paper books aren’t going to disappear, they are just going to become scarce, a niche market.

  30. All y’all need to go read Christian Sandstrom’s work over at his website:


    All of this has happened before, in other industries, namely with film photography, adding machines, and a host of other things like Hasselblad cameras. Sandstrom traces out the why and wherefore, and has identified the process that takes place in the industry being disrupted. Print publishing is following the same idiot’s trail that Kodak did, and will wind up the same damn way.

    Not that I mind, either: The list of authors the big houses have screwed over, and the number of back-list books that are no longer available is maddening. Couple that come to mind, off the top of my head: P.C. Hodgell, Sharon Lee, and Stan Miller. The biggies dropped all of them, they were taken up by Meisha Merlin, and when that house went down under a cascade of failures, it took Baen to save them. I think all three authors should have gone indie, and to a degree, they have. But, there are others out there, like Christopher Rowley, who can’t seem to get his stuff into print anymore, and whose backlist is still only available used. The assholes at the old guard publishing houses can’t seem to grasp that there is money to be made simply by providing convenience–I’d spend 2.99 in a heartbeat to get a digital copy of any of Rowley’s stuff for a re-read, but I simply won’t pay the price for a new paperback of something I bought years ago in hard copy. They can pretty much kiss my ass, with that pricing structure.

    Ah, well… The dinosaurs are going to die, and their corpses will be nibbled at by the nimble little mammals of the indy world. Tough shit–I won’t miss those bastards, at all. For a long time, I thought that both Hodgell and the Sharon Lee/Stan Miller team were dead, because I couldn’t find them down at the bookstore. Instead, like Rowley, they simply were deemed “not worth the effort, anymore…”, and left to wither. I’ll actively seek ways not to put money in the publisher’s hands, after that.

    1. Kodak had the excuse that most of its valuable knowledge was tied up in the chemical processes needed.

      1. Actually, not so much… Kodak did a lot of the pioneering research into digital imaging. The problem was, they didn’t want to cut into their existing market share by what they thought would be cannibalizing it with digital products. As such, they utterly missed the boat, along with Polaroid. The corporate records describing why they made the decisions they did all make that very clear. At least, those publicly available to folks like Mr. Sandstrom.

        You can almost pick out the next industry to collapse under the weight of these things. It’s all consistent enough to almost make you think the folks in those industries are following a script, or something. Same mistakes, repeated time and time again, ad nauseum.

        Probably the biggest error the dinosaurs make is in mistaking what business they’re actually in. Kodak thought it was in the film business, when the reality was that it was in something else, entirely–Imaging. Same-same with the traditional publishers: They think they’re in the book business. They’re not–They’re actually in the storytelling/entertainment business…

        1. Reviewing Sandstrom’s site, I see that I’d be better to compare to Polaroid than Kodak–Kodak remains in business, while Polaroid is dead and gone, aside from a few HAZMAT sites they’re still cleaning up.

          Sandstrom’s slide shows are well worth looking at–For several reasons, not the least of which is that they’re good examples of PowerPoint done right…

        2. Kodak actually did go into the imaging business. Threw huge truckloads of money into document scanning and retrieval systems and even fancier printers. But they only wanted to sell to “enterprise” customers, like Fortune 100.

          Unfortunately, Kodak’s razor focus on “enterprise solutions” led to them ignoring the 99% of customers who might have had some interest…

      2. A decade or so ago I was brought in as a long-term temp staff accountant at a firm which produced photographic paper (the stuff used to convert negatives into positives) for a Japanese manufacturer (I forget the name.) About one week after I started the ownership — who had taken great pride at never having laid off a single employee since the plant’s opening, something like twenty years prior — announced plans to shut down and sell off the plant.

        It seems the advent of digital photography and inkjet printers had completely undercut the market for photo paper. Rather than staying in and battling for a diminishing market in a shrinking niche, ownership decided to cut their losses and get the heck out of the industry.

        So, not so long term temp as I had hoped for.

        Strange plant, however: everything was done in nigh complete darkness (the reasons for which ought be obvious) and workers coming on shift waited about an hour in a “dim room” between punching in and starting work.

    2. It’s Steve Miller. I don’t know about P.C. Hodgell but I know Sharon Lee & Steve Miller were in bad financial trouble when Meisha Merlin went under while owing them a large chunk of royalties. As far as I know, Baen is currently publishing everything they write. Sometimes short stories of theirs show up on Amazon as indies before being gathered into a compilation published by Baen. They have a personal site which occasionally includes old drafts and unfinished work and the link, where they have a tip jar. That’s about it.

      In the pre-MM era, I understand that Sharon & Steve were very surprised when they got themselves on the internet in the USENET era and discovered they were in the FAQ of rec.arts.sf.written. (They had a FAN BASE and major publishing dropped them. Idiots.)

      1. Erk… I know better, too… Slip of the keyboard.

        Baen has built up a considerable cache of goodwill, with me, for keeping those folks in print. If they could persuade Lawrence Watt-Evans to move over to him, grab his back-list, and get him to put out more works, I’d probably forgive them for about anything, up to and maybe including financing Hitler’s rise to power…

        1. Baen has a reservoir of goodwill with me because they give me what I as a customer want. Consistent quality – not everything is to my taste, but everything is at least good. Accurate descriptions and correctly-coded covers — the covers may not actually depict a scene in the book, but if I buy a Baen book with a cover that makes me think it’s space opera, by golly the subgenres will include space opera. Ebooks without DRM. Hot new releases 3-4 months early if I’m willing to pay the premium. Bulk purchases by the month for a more-than-reasonable price. Individual purchases at a reasonable price. And the occasional back-and-forth on their Bar with actual answers from their main editor and some of the authors doesn’t hurt at all, either.

          I do like that Baen treats their authors decently, and they seem to be cultivating their midlist. Ultimately this is key. The publisher may be one factor in giving a book by a new author a chance, but I don’t follow publishers; I follow authors (and series / worlds, but those belong to authors, not publishers.)

      2. They had a FAN BASE and major publishing dropped them. Idiots.

        You just described, what, 75% of the geeky things that get made into movies?
        Marvel’s Avengers series aren’t so beloved because they’re perfect, they’re beloved because someone actually went “hey, wait, that goose that we’re setting to butcher– do those eggs look golden to you?”

        1. Current Marvel *comic books* are dreck. Oh, there’s probably an exception or three out there, but whenever I look a current Marvel comic book I wince. The plots don’t make sense, the characters don’t make sense, and often the problems are exacerbated by characters you’re supposed to sympathize with behaving like idiots. (And the problems are of a magnitude where a decent person bites the bullet and does absolutely everything he can to fix the problems.)

          Current Marvel *cinematic universe* is excellent. Not all of it’s to my taste, but the quality is good to much better. (And much of the not being to my taste is because I just don’t care for the movie format that much. I like to be able to pause at whim, and honestly I generally prefer books or video games over even solo-watch movies with a remote control in hand. Just … a form of immersion I’m usually not in the mood for.)

          In my opinion, this is because the comic books have fifty years of inconsistencies catching up with them. The cinematic universe has different people and doesn’t have to find away to avoid the fact that author K in 1991 said V when the current story arc would really make more sense if the truth was not-V, let alone the times when author K in 1991 said the truth was V and author N in 1997 said the truth was not-V.

          Note that the X-Men and Fantastic Four cinematic properties have been licensed by Fox, and I think Sony still owns Spider-Man (couple other exceptions that haven’t actually spawned movies, I’m told.) For the big properties, there’s a minimum number of movies to produce, or a price per year, or something, which is why the rights to Daredevil were returned to Marvel, but Marvel can’t use the X-Men characters, or the word ‘mutant’, or some other things. Those properties are not as consistent. I have actually liked most of the X-Men movies (though not what they chose to do with the characters) but Fox doesn’t have the apparently-rock-solid grip on the world and genre that Marvel Cinematic does. Sony … well, the FF movies were all very skipable, imo.

          1. The movies don’t have to worry about comic book time. Much. Magneto’s being a Holocaust survivor is the one that’s really going to be a problem, but they haven’t got the temporal references.

            Then there’s the little matter that if you churn out the stories, you’re going to have problems with quality.

                1. The movies don’t have to have the details of his backstory be the same as it is in the comic books; the problem is that they fit the character so beautifully that it’s hard to come up with a more-recent backstory that isn’t a painful downgrade.

                  The X-Men movies aren’t controlled by Marvel; they’re controlled by Fox, who also owns (well, licenses) the Fantastic Four, but nothing else. As such, the obvious thing to do is not set the origin movie in the here-and-now. Set it in the 1960s or 1980s, like X-Men First Class, but have it be the first movie, not a prequel. Then set the next one a few years later, with consequences from the first. You can then have several movies which actually affect the society in the world around them.

                  1. This has been somewhat my thinking on any new Fantastic Four film — set it in medias res and stop wasting story time on their origin. If there is anybody who doesn’t already grasp the basis of their origins she probably isn’t going to the movie anyway. So why not start with Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben Grimm in mufti, as apparent tourists trapped in Latveria as terrorist attacks provoke a crack down, only to slowly reveal themselves and end up guiding a revolution to establish a constitutional democratic republic? They can even explain the Thing appearing as Ben Grimm by means of a holographic image projected on one of Sue’s force fields from the inside.

                    That provides a story arc which builds to a natural climax while slowly developing the (mysterious) quartet.

                    Handle the origin in a later movie as flashback or just in a bit of throwaway dialogue; it isn’t what is interesting about these characters.

                    1. I like the idea of just starting the FF movie in the middle of the action and doing their origin in flashbacks. But enough of Doom & Latveria, please. Previous FF movies have done him to death, and there’s so much more in the FF’s rogues’ gallery. Give Doom a two-minute cameo to establish his existence and brilliance for future movies, or have him show up in flashbacks since you’re going to use them heavily anyway.

                      (I actually think somewhat the same of the X-Men and Magneto. Yes, he’s Xavier’s ideological opponent and there’s some sense in him popping up on Xavier’s radar frequently. He’s also my favorite character when well-done, which he almost never is. He still doesn’t need to be IN EVERY MOVIE. How about the Brood? Or using the Hellfire Club properly, with political & economic pressures and then a sneak attack boosted by technology? Or the movie with the Cure would actually have been more interesting if it hadn’t been a big straight-up fight with Magneto — some moral dilemmas, some small straight-up fights with rogue elements who want to force the Cure on individual mutants, Jean Grey starts losing control of her sanity and powers all on her own, and at the climax while Jean is beating up everyone trying to restrain her, someone who’s already lost his/her powers earlier in the movie walks up to Jean and simply hands her an injection and says something. Or the Sentinels as an enemy, ideally at a non-cataclysmic level, at some point where the previous movie established Magneto was in prison?)

                    2. I wasn’t actually thinking there was much need to show Victor von Doom — he is probably best kept as a shadowy presence behind the government. Any depictions of him could be as a hidden cloaked figure (seen from side or behind while addressing crowds or ministers, for example) or as totalitarian iconography: giant posters, statues and the like.

                      The setting in Latveria would be conducive to representing this as a nation very much like our USA, thus making certain points about natural rights, rule of law and such unfashionable components. Of course it would be dramatically impossible to present Doom as a “Speak Big but carry no stick” type of persona which would really give this resonance.

                      Many of the others in FF’s Rogues Gallery* would put the story in a less political thriller, more SF genre, much more difficult to carry off. Galactus, Silver Surfer, Annihilus, Diablo (and his creation, Dragon Man), Mad Thinker, Mole Man, Molecule Man, Red Ghost (and his Super-Apes), even Puppet Master or the Frightful Four all pose problems for grounding the film effectively for presentation of these characters in an initial project.

                      Many of those might work well for a sequel, but the first phase is to ground these characters realistically so that we can more appreciate the fantastic elements. The first story need not be an origin but it must tell us who these characters are; later films can look at what they do.

                      Some are, of course, right out! — such as Ronan the Accuser or T’Challa or even the Inhumans. The Watcher might be a good device for the second film, launching them into the SF realm which is their métier.

              1. Antisemitism is one thing. Seeing hundreds of thousands of Jews including your entire family die is another. Being morally complicit as a Sonderkommando doesn’t help either. If you want Magneto to be a sincere fanatic who is so paranoid about humanity that the only safety he sees for mutants is in strength and conquest (and why wouldn’t you? there’s no shortage of pure sociopaths or of might-makes-right characters), there’s no substitute for the backstory Chris Claremont gave him.

                1. Have Magneto grow up in a kibbutz that ultimately is destroyed … in part because of the neighboring countries, in part because the rest of the world turned its back.

                  Or make him a Kurd.

                  1. BZZZTTT!! Turn in your card, comrade! We can’t have such a right deviationist proposing stories, you might end up insinuating something is wrong with jihad.

                  2. A kibbutz which is destroyed is roughly equivalent to a village being destroyed, while the nation it’s part of remains. There’s something you’re connected to which will help you build a new life. Not at all the same sort of thing as your entire tribe / subculture being destroyed across several nations.

                    Making him a Kurd instead of a Jew to move the events of his life to closer to the present time is an interesting thought. Certainly they’ve been kicked around a lot recently. But I don’t know them well enough to say much else.

            1. It’s not so much the churning out the stories leading to problems with *quality* – you can still have gems mixed in with the glass under those circumstances. It’s a matter of churning out the stories for fifty years leading to problems with *consistency*, especially given the lengthy period during which so many authors have given characters legs and torsos of clay to match their feet. Feet of clay are FINE in a superheroic universe; they make the characters with superpowers more human. (Though you should always have a few characters who consistently rise above, and their flaws should be the correct ones for their nature. Cyclops has a stick up his butt and gets annoyed at normal failings — fine; that’s the flaw that comes with the virtues. Cyclops finds out that his first love came back to life and runs to her in spite of his obligations elsewhere — not good, but manageable; he can be so in love with Jean Grey that even his family pales if the author wants to write him that way. Cyclops fails to do what little he can for those obligations without going there himself and fails to angst repeatedly that he’s deserted his *wife and newborn son* — TOTAL FAIL; that’s NOT who the character IS. He’s got the virtue of responsibility and the flaw of taking it to extremes; he doesn’t have the ability to just walk away even when he should. That was the founding of X-Factor, way back in the early nineties or late eighties and ruined the character for me going forward; I can enjoy him only in backstory predating that time or in alternate universes.)

              Marvel Cinematic doesn’t have any problem with Magneto; he’s grouped in with the X-Men intellectual properties and Fox has an indefinitely-renewable-as-long-as-they-comply-with-the-terms exclusive license to those.

              1. that’s NOT who the character IS.


                That, coupled with the “hey, they have A Thing? Let’s break it.”

                One of the geek pages on facebook had a meme that mentioned Hawkeye as not having issues, and I was not surprised at all that at least one of the comic books had slaughtered his family. On “screen,” of course– someone shared a panel, which made they’d milked it for maximum psychotic pain.

                Cheap drama: for when you’re too emotionally stunted to write a decent freaking story.

          2. The comic books these days don’t seem to even understand folks who LIKE the characters, much less the love inspired by Captain America, for one example. Same problem with most of the movies. I can’t remember what it was, but when they first got the movie rights, they planned something stupid….I think it was putting his origin in Afganistan… and then they LISTENED when high holy hell was raised that it wasn’t right.

            1. DC is no better. It’s a crime what they’ve done to Green Lantern. Some iterations of Justice League have Lex Luthor instead of GL.

      3. I still recall the evening; slow night at the library when I was following a rabbits trail of weeks and discovered that Sharon Steve Miller were alive and well and had written a sequel to the Liaden books. I called my best friend as soon as I got home from work: after 9pm to share the good news.

    3. It’s the “bet it all on one big winner” scenario.

      Rather than deal with ten midlist writers and spread their losses, they bet the year’s profits on that year’s blockbuster novel.

      1. In nonfiction we used to call this SMOWS: Sell More Of What Sells. Bet it all on the Big Winner, and if you don’t have a Big Winner, bet it all on imitations of somebody else’s Big Winner. Just don’t try anything especially original.

        We did very well for years turning this notion on its ear.

      2. Yeah, well; I want more than a couple good books a year, so as a reader I prefer the midlist focus. Also … if you don’t develop your midlist, where are the big winners going to come from? Poached from other publishers who were also sacrificing their midlist for the big winners and message fiction? Poached from Baen and whichever other publishers actually DO develop their midlist so that you RELY on authors being persuadable to walk away from the people who actually treated them decently? Why would they do that? If they’re going to leave after becoming a big name or writing a big winner (which was pitched anywhere other than the publisher which developed them as midlist authors WHY?) why would they go to another publisher? Wouldn’t it make more sense to go indie and reap the full benefits of their rep?

  31. Now I know some independent booksellers are making a come back, but I can also tell you there aren’t nearly the numbers of them there were in the late nineties before the chains killed them and before Amazon ate the chains.

    Betcha a lot of them have sold people like me books– on Amazon.

    If the new book (physical or e) is too expensive, I look for the used ones with shipping that cost less; I’ve gotten a ton of books for the kids that way, when libraries decide something hasn’t been checked out enough and downsize it. (Speaking of systems lying to you… I’m buying the kind of stuff that I use to pull off the shelf and read in one go, without ever leaving the library. Which would, of course, not result in it getting listed as checked out…..)

    1. Remember that not all books sold as used are actually used; some are remainders, which are unused overstock, written off and sold for almost nothing as surplus. When I want a print book, I always check the used sites first to see if anyone has unused copies. (This generally doesn’t work for MMPB, which have a different remaindering mechanism.) Given how many used book sites are out there, and how easy it is to search on the Web, I generally find what I want.

      1. Given I just bought a book released in July used (to avoid buying new from Tor…it was the one book scheduled post boycott that was a “must have”) and it looked pretty new with no remainder black stripe.

        Really, are MMPB from July already remaindered in August?

        1. I doubt it. More likely somebody bought it, read three pages, decided they didn’t like it, and put it up for sale. Or it may have been a review/promo copy that was never looked at. Many of these are sent out, and they do find their way into the used book market. Mike Resnick used to send copies of his MMPBs to every single person on the SFWA membership list, though that was in the 1970s, and SFWA was smaller.

          I never dealt with MMPBs as a publisher, but I recall that at one point in history (it may no longer be true) retailers tore the covers off the books, sent the covers to the publishers for a refund, and trashed the bodies of the remaindered books.

          1. Judging by the number of MMPBs I see with an copyright page advisory that

            Sale of this book without a front cover
            may be unauthorized. If this book is coverless, it may have been reported to the publisher as “unsold or destroyed” and neither the author nor the publisher may have received payment for it.

            I would guess it is still in effect and occasionally abused. I vaguely recall them in an ultra cheap bin and it is possible a vendor might pass them along to good customers as “something you might enjoy.”

            That last use seems somewhat legitimate as it may develop a new reader for the damaged author, although employing SCOTUS reasoning from Commerce Clause cases I suppose, to the extent the reader is not purchasing and reading a book by another author it is damaging that imputed other author.

          1. Wow…this particular book didn’t even reach my local B&N before I bought the used copy on Amazon.

            Two weeks might be reasonable for this, the last in a 15 book series but how is a new book supposed to find any audience in that time? Assuming a book a week reader (which is probably faster than my average) it doesn’t even have time to get word of mouth going.

  32. I just bought my first tablet 2 weeks ago. I’m still trying to figure out how all this tech works (I’m such a troglodyte). The scalable font is what has finally driven me to the e-book format and it will be neat to have such a vast number of books with me at all times, still getting used to that idea!
    My first purchase was a collection of Conan stories, the very first thing I read on my new tablet was “Red Nails” my most favorite of the stories!
    I still have my persoanal library and still buy real books from time to time. But like others have mentioned here, I will only excercise the e-book option if it is less expensive than hardcopy. Happily I am finding a huge amount of things very inexpensive and even free!

  33. It’s baffling unless you realize you’re dealing with cultures, not with people, not even with groups. Cultures have these beliefs they tell themselves, and isolated cultures have really tenacious stories they tell themselves, and are really good at punishing dissenters.

    I don’t think it’s so much a matter of isolation, as how secure the culture is.

    When things are safe, you can have disagreement.

    When things are live-or-die, everyone has to be pulling in the same direction. Look at how people interact with others– when someone’s stressed, they’re a LOT less tolerant. (Yes, this thought popped into my head because I was musing about how the publishing culture was “under stress,” and that connected to my being snippy when I’m stressed.)

    Isolation is just where sick cultures are most likely to survive…..

  34. When I saw MGC yesterday, I was wondering if you corrupted Dave about Leonard Cohen or what was going on there.
    now “I’m Your Man” is playing in my head

  35. And now for something (mostly) different …

    I work in scientific publishing (STM journals), and the difference btw us and the trad book publishers is like night & day. We’ve been publishing content (new & old) online since the 1990s; print subscriptions have been phasing out in favor of e-only; journals are converting to e-only (newer titles are born digital); first issue of the year for *every title* is free for a year.

    Warehouses? We’ve been closing ours and only keeping current year + one (except in very special cases) in stock; backstock agents handle POD orders; print orders are as exact as possible (yes, we have to re-do print orders to reflect an increase of 1 copy!!!); once stock has been exhausted, issues are reprinted ONLY when we receive orders.

    Backlist? *rubs hands* Hey buddy, want some neurosicence from the 1890s? Want some cell biology or primatology from the 1970s? Whaddya say to some chemistry or engineering? You want backlists, I’ve got your digitized backfiles for thousands of journals (millions of articles) right here … (for any takeover title, digitizing backfiles is offered as a matter of course).

    Yeah, STM isn’t all roses either, but we seem to have figured out the field of dreams concept (if you digitize it, they will come) faster than the trads. Now we just have publish articles as quickly as the authors want.

  36. Long-time lurker, first-time poster. I love the industry posts, and the growing-up-in-Portugal ones.

    Given that this one’s an industry post, I have a not-quite-off-topic question for you and the commenters: if someone — specifically, my wife — wanted to break into copy editing, what are the recommended paths for that? I’m aware of freelancer.com for freelancing, but that’s about it. What are the places that y’all use for connecting with editors?

    Thanks in advance.

    (I may not reply to answers quickly. Part of the reason I’m a lurker is that day job.)

    1. Hang out with this lot, and at Mad Genius Club and offer her services. IF I can kick this health thing and if my money stops being tied up in rent AND mortgage, I will need probably more than one copyeditor.

      1. Hi there! I’m the wife. Thanks for the warm welcome. I’m also a long-time lurker, first-time commenter, though Meic is the one who introduced me to your site a while back. I look forward to reading through the Mad Genius Club too!

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