Thursday, August 11, 2011

I quit this publishing business!

It looks like my last post on ebooks generated emotions for many of you readers. In addition to the few comments to the blog posting, I received tweets, comments on facebook and personal emails. Those responses were broken up into two groups: Those who oppose digital books and those who support digital books. The general consensus of those who support this new technology use the same bases for their argument. The ebook allows one to obtain and carry an extensive library of literature that was never possible before. Also, the ebook allows more authors to be circulated without the stoic bouncing of editors and publishing houses.

These are all very valid opinions and they are neither right nor wrong but suitable for those making them. As is my opinion. The only factual point that I can make against ebooks is my love for the printed material opposed to the digital age. But there are a few arguments I would like to make against the ebook supporters that I chose not to bring up in the last posting.

First of all, I can't argue with the fact that the ebook allows for an individual to acquire and store more volumes of a fault. I compare this to the music industry and the same demise will follow. In 2009, a study followed 900 popular books. Of those books, each title was illegally downloaded around 10,000 times. This does not include all the other titles that were downloaded for free. If I did some more digging, I'm sure that 2010 would prove to have greater numbers. I can see why people approve of the ebook because you can own more than you can afford. It's the American way. I look at my book shelf as I write. I may only own half (or even much less) as many books in the physical form next to someone and their ebook collection. But each and every book means so much to me. I paid for it. If there were three books I wanted and could only afford one, that book means more to me because I chose it over the others.

Let's face it. Ebooks make it all too easy. Too easy to own. Too easy to steal. It will all trickle down (it's already begun). Book stores are going out of business. Publishers will publish less. Authors will lose jobs. Even those that will still publish independently will do so in less volume because they will have to have a day job to pay the bills. Digital music killed the music scene and digital books will kill the publishing scene.

Secondly, the ebook does allow for more authors to get their work seen. This is both good and bad. I understand the difficulty in getting published. I submitted my work to comic companies for almost a decade before I received my first publishing gig. And I still haven't been hired to illustrate a comic book. But it should be difficult.

Look at digital film and youtube. It is so extremely easy for anyone to get their hands on a digital camera, make a film and have it seen by millions of people. It doesn't even have to be good. Now, talent scouts will pick up individuals based on their youtube views. Does the amount of views equal quality? Absolutely not. This technology unleashed a beast of mediocrity.

The same is true for publishing. It shouldn't be easy to get published. And if you can't get a big publisher to believe in your work, then maybe you should have some ordeal that signifies your own confidence in your abilities. Take the risk and drop a few thousand dollars to get your book published and distributed. Rewards come to the deserving. Maybe I feel like the pot of gold should require some talent, effort and/or gamble. Maybe I think it is all too easy and we live in a society that expects entitlement.

Now playing devil's advocate, are there talented-hardworking authors out there that are not getting published? Of course. Be it bad luck, faulty charisma, censorship or that their work is never looked at and instead tossed in the garbage, they just can't get a break. Will the ebook rectify this unfortunate situation. Possibly, with an equally negative side effect.

Now here's where I may loose some of you. It appears that the ebook makes it easy for alternative literature to bypass censoring government. Hurray for the revolution, right? What will happen when the government owns the computers and the internet you rely on for this distribution. I'm going to give you the puzzle pieces and you can put it together however you like.

In 2001, George W Bush passed a law called the Patriot Act allowing government access to your computer and web activity without warrant. Nothing is being done to stop monopolization. Time/Warner/Aol are talking about merging with AT&T. AT&T are talking about merging with Verizon. Verizon is predicted to merge with sprint. We are close to one company owning and running the internet and phone service. In 2009, Barrack Obama increased and established a cybersecurity facility in the white house with an executive order to centralize all cyberactivity to be monitored and controlled by any one country. The government is attempting to take control of the internet as a whole with the “Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act” (“PCNAA”). Amazon, the largest online retailer, is the creator of the best selling ebook reader Kindle.

In July 2009, The New York Times reported that deleted all customer copies of certain books published by MobileReference, including the books 1984 and Animal Farm from users' Kindles. This action was taken with neither prior notification nor specific permission of individual users.

If Amazon can do this, do you think alternative literature will exist in the future with the ebook? The government will control the one company that operates our internet service, which circulates literature, which we put on a computer device that is accessible to all of the above. It's a lot easier to delete a digital file with the push of a button, then to form a book burning mob and hunt down books. We as a society are making it easier for the government to control what we read, release disinformation and rewrite history.

This is just a theory of course. But my old man always taught me to look under the hood before I buy a car. Excuse the biblical analogy, but if the apple didn't look so ripe and delicious, do you think Eve would have taken it?

I'm not really going to quit in the publishing world. I just figured a tragic title like that would generate more attention. But there are many independent publishers, bookstores and authors who can't lick it. I'd rather see them stick around than obtain this technology. Zeitgeist. The sign of the times. Like Pee Wee once said, "I'm a fighter, Dotty. A rebel". No matter what happens, I'll role with the punches. If I have to, I'll release my books digitally. Although I don't know how that will help when a book that has not been coded into an ebook sells more copies as a whole than those that have been digitized.

I'll restate that so that you don't misconstrue me and focus on how much more ebooks sell than hardcover books. A book that is in the physical form ONLY has a larger percentage of purchased sales than a book that has been digitized because you can't access that book for free (without shoplifting of course). Get it?

And who has the balls to actually go into a store and shoplift any more?


  1. Well said, Gris. I am a Borders employee with maybe a month to go before the door is closed for the last time. I do not own an e-reader and I never will. How the heck does an artist remarque an e-book?

  2. I've been corrected. Pee Wee said, "I'm a loner" not "I'm a fighter". But fighter serves my argument more appropriately. Sorry I misquoted.

  3. I agree with EVERYTHING in this post, except for the last sentence. I work at a bookstore and we have a huge problem with shoplifting.

    I will confess that I do have a Kindle, but I hardly ever use it. It's kinda been gathering dust. When people give me Amazon giftcards thinking I'll use them for the Kindle, I almost always use them to get printed books, craft supplies, or storage things for my comic book collection.

  4. It's "I'm a loner, Dottie, a rebel." Not fighter. Loner.

    I used to work for a large book publisher. The difficulty here is that, like the music business, everyone is hampering their efforts to adapt by trying to dig their heels in and control the change. The more effort they put into trying to stave off the change, the less adapting they will do and the more it will hurt when the change overwhelms the status quo.

    Yes, it bubbles up some problems. Yes, people will steal your content. Same for music, same for software.

    And yes, we're headed for a glut of mediocrity because of the dubious glory of self-publishing. Just like blogs, and music, and desktop publishing, the cream will rise to the top, just of a different system.

    People still see value in a physical book, but that value is changing. The change is inevitable, so reinvention is a requirement. Digging in your heels will accomplish nothing. You need to adapt, and think about what will really be valuable when the change is done. And get there first.

  5. one more thing, these devices are really bad for your eyes.

  6. I am with you, nothing I like better than holding a book in my hands, running my fingers across my bookshelves to pick one out and breathing in that book smell. I especially agree with you on "each and every book means so much to me. I paid for it. If there were three books I wanted and could only afford one, that book means more to me because I chose it over the others." Sigh, we may be a dying breed

  7. I must tell you I agree with you. Piracy and some other illegal activities have given governments the excuse they always wanted to control internet. They can now ban on the basis of protecting us. Charming.
    Ultimately, they'll sell internet to the big media companies, which are really worried of people entertaining themselves for free. Their direct competitors not being piracy but free contents.
    Anyway, I'll always be pro-analog, anti-digital. I understand all the stuff about digital advantages, but I know how analog stuff works and can get a hold at it. I's got lots more of charm anyway.

  8. I couldn't agree more, Gris. Very well said.

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