Janny Wurts Chat Area: Author's Corner: E-books
   By Gary on Wednesday, November 21, 2007 - 09:33 pm: Edit Post

Hi Janny,
I've been following the twists and turns with book publishing over the last few years, mostly through this forum, as it seems to have become increasingly difficult to push the "quality" versus "quantity" argument with publishers. Apologies if I've gotten it wrong, but my impression is that publishers are no longer looking to break even, but require a certain return on investment on any book that undergoes a print run.

Do you feel that e-books like the Amazon Kindle might offer a way to allow less popular works to be published in some form? I saw an interesting review of this device at http://blog.rlove.org/2007/11/review-of-amazon-kindle.html - the most relevant part of the article for me was


One of the most significant trends the Kindle could fuel is downward pressure on book prices. With hardcovers clocking in at $20 or $25, Kindle's $9.99 is a huge change that will substitute physical for virtual book purchases. The question is, to what degree? The current rigamarole that publishers dance through does not help prices; deciding how many books to print in each run and managing the publisher-bookseller relationship is a real mess. A distribution mechanism with less risk and no supply chain hassle is a big win.

(Loved Stormed Fortress btw, and very proud to have it on my bookshelf, so in spite of this post, I couldn't live with an e-book version)

   By Laneth Shadow-Walker on Wednesday, November 21, 2007 - 10:57 pm: Edit Post

Personally, I can't actually read and retain pretty much anything from a monitor and am one of those people that has to print stuff out to read it, (if it's important enough), so I'd be printing off Janny's work, just to read it (and breaking Copyright laws in doing so).

The other thing that came to mind as I read this would be, "What's the royalty return for the Author, in a comparison between Print & Virtual?
When ye take into account Printing/Marketing costs & the Publishing House's commission factor, that leaves "X" amount per sale that ends up back in the Author's pocket, as a percentage of the Sale or RRP cost.

When it's digital/virtual and the cost is significatly lower, there's still be distribution & hosting costs etc. and I wonder what the same returns would be for the Author, in that instance?

I don't, personally, like destroying trees for the purpose of Print, however I really don't want to see Books become a thing of the past. That would be a tragedy that shouldn't happen.

   By Janny Wurts on Thursday, November 22, 2007 - 11:55 am: Edit Post

Hi Gary - this could become an interesting discussion, and also, we're facing what the impact will be on the industry as a whole.

To date, it's not been handled with foresight.

Publishers, early on, considered e sales as "subsidiary rights" and as such, treated the item, where they could get away with it, as a "resale" much as a subrights sale to a book club. The author got only 50 percent of their NORMAL royalty, with such a subrights sale. The grist that stuck was that there is NO PRODUCTION cost, or risk, on the publisher's part. Such a sale would become largely profit....so.....why should an author get a bare fraction (a half a royalty sliding between 5 percent, or even two, if it was a lousy contract!

Until the entire industry sits up and revamps its thinking into EQUITABLE terms....you see the problem.

E books for download are incredibly hard to track - people can pass them on like nothing, and nobody wins. While I do realize the information age is upon us, and information flow is part of the good stuff - too much "propriety" dams that flow to our detriment -- the "information should be free" crowd just likes to omit the fact that our authorial creativity has no free lunch. We do our "dreaming" in physical bodies that need to be fed, clothed, housed, and we have to upkeep our families. The craft of writing, the artistry of working with words, does not happen by magic - it takes time, dedication, practice - and that ain't free, either.

Right now, the authors are trying to stand on their rights as creators, and get this matter on the table for a sane resolution.

One could wish there was something like an itunes for books.

The other half of the problem - is quality. And that's a stumbler.

If any book can be uploaded, just like that, and set up with an account for an author - well, anything goes! How does a reader have ANY assurance of quality, before paying their share to receive the story??? With production costs so simple, anybody can desktop upload....and there may be many treasures in the muck, but there's an awful lot of muck! Traditionally, whether you agree with editorial policies, or not, a publisher was a rite of passage - the book they produced, and put money and effort behind - made a statement that it passed a certain STANDARD. You at least knew it had been handled, checked, copyedited, and fashioned to be basically readable, whether or not you liked the content.

How will the rash of e book publication handle this??? Any editor will tell you about their towering slush heaps - and a day spent leafing through such pages (no offense to anyone still in their learning stages) will quickly show that most of it is - dreck. Poor ideas, badly organized presentation, no ideas at all, much of the time, if there is a worthy idea, the poor thing never got on the page! Learning the craft of writing is not just a talent - it is an artistry, and most writers beginning have no idea how to handle themselves on a page. Many great books are lost, because they never take the time and the hours to learn how to manage their "talent"!

So - what role will a "publisher" play in the e book game?

When people say "e books are ecologically better" this is a misnomer!!!! Computers, download, machines to read the books, batteries - these take POWER. Most of our electricity comes from dirty sources (coal, for instance, takes the tops of MOUNTAINS - and chokes the valleys, streams and everything below with poisonous, suffocating silt - how destructively arrogant!) Readers, batteries, computers use all manner of poisonous heavy metals - and where are these discarded? I once saw a chart that displayed how many countries were required to give up raw minerals to create ONE computer - it's staggering. Those extractive industries are horrific for the earth and I see NO computer company addressing sustainability. It's all get a bigger, better, faster machine, and chuck out your old one.

Fortunately, our landfill here does some disassemble and salvage of old electronics, and if not that, at least disposes of the heavy metal stuff in the circuit boards as TOXIC WASTE.

The print book - grows trees. Trees can reseed. The pulp industry is a mess, with the bleaching and the damage to rivers, but that is able to be cleaned up a lot easier than a DUMP, or fixing a removed mountain top....where NOTHING grows, all the topsoil and upper strata of living things just - chomped away by a massive machine. (Do your research!)

We currently have a crisis in our forests, due to paper companies DUMPING their land - and who's buying that "wild" acreage???? Use your google. Do your research.

I am not against e books. But I do not regard them as a panacea for the environment, YET.

The solution will emerge - and for now, very probably, will become a mix of formats.

First off, though, the equitable distribution of renumeration needs a major adjustment - so consumers of ideas can enjoy and benefit at a reasonable price, and so that producers who DO THE WORK get a fair wage, and so that creators see the value of their ideas translated into a fair living.

Publishers, many of them, have taken to adding a clause in their contracts that includes what amounts to the meaning of - all rights pertaining to inventions yet to occur in the future.....!

Talk about a rights grab, with no equitable negotiation permitted!!! Not a simple thing, as just, let's do e books.

I personally expect, when the centrifuge of controversy is done, we will have what we WANT...but there has to be an evolution in thinking, concerning the "value" of ideas - which do not have substance, but which require our presence and effort (in substance) to produce.

   By Gary on Thursday, November 22, 2007 - 02:04 pm: Edit Post

I'm quite aware of computers as being not ecologically friendly, and that is not where e-books' strengths lie. I would see the strengths as being in the areas of allowing people who would not otherwise get published, to publish.

The ecological question is quite valid, and it's something that is of far larger scope of e-books. How does a society which is built upon the idea of growth-is-good, learn to build a sustainable world for the long term? Many of our greatest technological achievements are only sustainable due to cheap access to energy. Even if we were to solve the energy conundrum, it is far from a panacea. Even the creation of pure silicon for use in computer chips is wasteful - both raw materials and harmful waste.
Our systems take low-energy natural minerals, and through high-energy conversions, change them into complex single-use extremely long-lasting components. Difficult and expensive to break down, so we take the easy route and dump them in landfills. Convenient - leave the problem for our descendants.

How does our society move to something more ecologically sound? I would like to say that an economic crisis may force a change of model which will correct things for the better, but crises are not a point where people necessarily think long-term.
Foresight? Sadly, the people who are elected to office often seem to be those who can appeal to people's fears or wishes, but have no long-term sustainable viewpoint. In the US, the civil servants who might have a longer term view appear to have in many cases been ousted for the sake of ideology and political convenience. Highly regrettable, and I'm worried that the damage done to non-partisan "getting things done" could take years to fix.

As my view of the future of publishers in a putative digital world, I would think that similar issues are present for any move from physical shippable products to data. It's the move from an editorial/printing/shipping model, to an editorial/publishing model. Could the editorial and connecting-to-customers roles be completely separated? Without physical delivery, an editorial job could be more of a freelance role - it's still hugely important, but there's no intrinsic requirement for it to be connected to the publishing phase.

The role of publishers could change significantly, I could see them as being equivalent to a credit ratings organization, for content.
Not using the current payment model - if writers pay for their reviews, there is a conflict of interest - readers should choose reviewers/publishers/editors they trust, and know that the content published through them will be of a certain quality rating - by experience.
A change of that magnitude could not be accepted easily by publishing companies; what I said above would change the game completely.

(I speak with ignorance of the industry here, and if I ever write books, it's more likely to be technical in nature than building castles in the air).

Content ownership is a difficult matter. I'm definitely on the side of the arguments of Laurence Lessig who decries the loss of cultural material because copyright laws caused them to be destroyed without copies. But there has to be sufficient protection to allow authors to be free to create, and to get sufficient renumeration in return for their efforts.
Some music bands are happy for music to be copied, and make their money back from ticket sales at concerts, t-shirt sales, etc. But book authors never (almost never) have the same kind of notoriety, and cannot live on such a financial model.
I don't know how it's going to work with e-books - one might like to think that respect for the author would be sufficient. DRM technical measures certainly haven't been sufficient in the past, and probably won't be in the future.

There appears to be a growing dismissiveness towards copyright laws, how much of this is based on people feeling that they got a raw deal (people paying more money for a digital copy of an album than it would cost to buy the physical CD?), and how much is convenience, and how much is just not wanting to pay, I don't know.
I would like to think that given an easy way to pay an "appropriate amount" ("appropriate" is hard to determine), people would do the right thing (iTunes caused a lot of digital music sales, because the most convenient way to get the music was to pay for it).

I have no experience of authors' contracts with publishers, but all I can say is UNFAIR. And I hope that those publishers who treat their authors well, get a reward from that, rather than vice versa.

   By Janny Wurts on Saturday, November 24, 2007 - 11:34 pm: Edit Post

Upon more exploring - there's a lot of talk on this contraption - rather pricey! And prerogatory...and doesn't the price of a book download (9.95) seem just a BIT greedy? That's more than a paperback, and how many people in the food chain get work, or pay, or a job, out of a download that costs nothing to manufacture, store, or ship...

I just read a VERY interesting article, today, concerning the rarity of the Lynx, its recovery gaining numbers in Maine, and the fact that SELECT clear cuts of forest help that animal to thrive....(they prey on hare, hare don't proliferate in thick forest, but multiply in open, young conifer stands, starting back a few years after logging) the paper industry, revamped, is not as environmentally awful as many people make out. I do speak some, from experience, having spent a lot of my childhood in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and with grandparents owning property in Maine. There ARE forests there, where once, there was stripped ground and farmland (yup, it's second growth, and healthy too) due to the widespread, long term holdings of timber spreads for paper companies....anyone who ever hiked or camped in that wilderness - those huge tracts are breaking up, now, fast, and what's moving in is SHORT TERM investment geared to selling to private development, and vacation homes - not keeping unbroken tracts of sustainable, profitable forest intact.

Does spark fuel for thought - the "paper book" not being as destructive as some angles of view have made it appear. Eliminate returns, you have an item that uses NO power, and takes nothing else, for generations of reuse.

There's a parallel with the demise of the cork wine stopper, and the oak groves on the Mediterranean....those trees have been there for hundreds of years, the cork harvest doesn't kill them - the bark regrows on the same trees, again and again - this change, for a pittance of pennies, (cork rot being largely a solved problem) switching to artificial stoppers (oil based plastic, which helps nothing and doesn't break down) is causing whole AREAS of coastal habitat to be at risk of going up for grabs....forethought, forethought, I keep hoping the information age makes recognitions happen in time. We will not buy wine with artificial corks, but I understand certain markets in Britain won't sell wine with real cork anymore....shortsighted policy, and for something near (if I recall) twenty cents (US currency) in price.

   By Trys on Sunday, November 25, 2007 - 05:04 pm: Edit Post

One of the 'new age' musical artists I listen to (Ackerman I think) wrote in the liner notes of one of his CDs about walking through the woods of New Hampshire and encountering stone walls. He researched this and found out that much of New Hampshire had been farmlands but have been long abandoned and the forest has taken back the land leaving only stone walls within its environs.

Since the topic has taken a decidedly environmental jog... I found out recently two things... one upsettng and one encouraging.

Back in the mid '90s General Mortors had produced a passenger vehicle called the EV1 that was 100% electric but destroyed all the models without ever having sold one.

Starting in mid-2008 Honda has plans to make it's FCX Clarity Fuel Cell vehicle available to areas of southern California. This is a hydrogen powered vehicle that produces no byproducts other than water vapor. As fueling options become more widely available they will expand it's availability. Website is http://www.honda.com/fuel-cell/.

Honda is also working on a Home Energy Station that will heat water for the home, produce hydrogen for the vehicle, and sources electricity for the home

Hey Detroit! Wake the frack UP!!!


   By Jeff on Monday, May 21, 2012 - 01:20 am: Edit Post

Hi Janny.

I just noticed that the ITunes store has all of the Wars of Light and Shadow series EXCEPT Initiate's Trial. That's using the ITunes software.
I double-checked the itunes.com website and Initiate's Trial shows up there, but the link into the ITunes player says the book is only available in the Australian ITunes store.

I don't know if this is something you are aware of or might want to pass on to your publisher.

Hope it helps...

   By Janny Wurts on Monday, May 21, 2012 - 09:09 am: Edit Post

Hi Jeff, thanks for letting me know. I will check into it.

Add a Message

This is a private posting area. Only registered users and moderators may post messages here.