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June 27, 2005

What publishing is
Posted by Patrick at 03:20 PM * 37 comments

The Book Standard, an up-and-coming online trade magazine about the book industry, does a reasonable job of covering experiments in the online distribution of free-and-unfettered novel e-texts as a means of building an audience, including ventures from entities as diverse as Cory Doctorow and Baen Books. Among those quoted are Cory, Jim Baen, Charles Stross, Tim O’Reilly, and me. I’m particularly glad they used this bit of summing-up:

“Publishing is not about just making a paper copy of a book,” says Hayden. “The essential enterprise of publishing is finding texts that audiences want to read and signaling to those audiences that, hey, this is something neat,” he says. “Those skill sets are going to be just as valuable with new forms of publishing.”

Not as well-put as I might have managed if I hadn’t been blathering over a long-distance phone line, but it’s a point I find myself making a lot, and I’m glad to see it passed along.

Comments on What publishing is:
#1 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2005, 03:53 PM:

Just to clear one detail up:

Since it was published in January of 2003, Down and Out has sold more than 10,000 copies, as reported by Nielsen BookScan, and it’s now in its fifth printing.
That's literally true--in fact, its net sale of hardcovers and trade paperbacks is well over one and a half times that figure. Which is far from bestseller territory, but it's a lot better than your average first novel, as the article points out.

I mention this only because there have been a lot of articles about Cory's experiments in letting people download his books, and the sales figures quoted for his print books have been kind of all over the place. Some of that, of course, comes from the fact that in an industry where hardcovers and trade paperbacks are returnable for full credit, "net" sales are a moving target for many months after publication.

The actually encouraging fact about Cory's sales figures is that his novels seem to continue backlisting nicely for a long time after publication. This is generally considered evidence that a certain number of people like them and give them good word-of-mouth. That's what having an audience consists of.

#2 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2005, 04:20 PM:

Patrick and Teresa:

I love Cory's fiction, and also like him as a human being. What I can't untangle is how much his apparent success, of open source texts boosting conventional book sales, is due to him, how much to his specific fiction, how much to his technological strategy (including blogging), and how much to the novelty of his approach. Hence, although I remain optimistic that he is leading pioneers, from Easterns Standard Tribe, over the Rockies, as the mountain man who blazed the way first, the results are not yet in on how many wagon trains make it to the destination, how many die along the way of distributing diseases, and how many are killed by hostile war-whooping critics. Into The Virtual West!

#3 ::: Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2005, 04:44 PM:

If Cory Doctorow, or even Baen Books, were the first to demonstrate that online availability can boost hardcopy sales, you might have a point. However, the National Academy of Sciences Press--not generally a source of either nifty, exciting fiction or of accessible, engaging personalities promoting their books--decided years ago to make a lot of their books available, fulltext, for free, on the web (on the grounds that they weren't primarily looking to make money from them anyway), and discovered that their sales rose considerably.

Hardly anyone really wants to read large bodies of text on the screen. If you've got something that people will want to read if they get a serious sample of it, making it readily available electronically will cause many of them to go looking for a print copy.

#4 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2005, 06:50 PM:

We're reading _Down and Out_ for next month's SF discussion group. I checked the book out, but three of the guys are reading it on their PDAs.

#5 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2005, 07:07 PM:

Lis Carey:

Thank you for a serious reply to my serious point (albeit presented in a semisilly frame).

By your analysis, we could use data from Scientist/Science Fiction authors who publish both novels and in the National Academy of Sciences Press. You know, someone akin to the late Isaac Asimov or Robert Forward, or the current Geoffrey Landis or Gregory Benford.

The business model of academic publishing (including Science and Math) is quite different from the busness model for fiction. On another thread herein, we've discussed the notion of "page charges" paid from grants or university department budgets, and whether or not those are equivalent to Vanity Press. Quite a lot of scientists think it is, and are relieved to move to more open-sourcey models. I now PRIMARILY publish on edited on-line sites (not blogs or my own web domain, but web domains hosted by entities such as AT&T Research, and with distinguished editorial panels).

I still think that Cory is a leader of pioneers, as was Stephen King (wounded by BULLET). I'm sure he'd agree that he is not Lewis & Clark.

Wikipedia and Slashdot may be among the largest settlements on the Frontier, but it's surely still the Frontier. eBay is the biggest trading post. Yahoo and Google are a combination of Pony Express, a coalition of mapmakers, and all the small-town newspapers rolled together. The dot-gov sites are like U.S. Army forts. Pr0n has a heart of gold. The U.S. Supreme Court just came down against Grokster et al., to benefit the owner of the casino and brothel, who's bribed the mayor, but that's another thread.

#6 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2005, 07:51 PM:

Actually, if we could have a fifty-year moratorium on frontier metaphors in describing aspects of online life, I would be ever so happy. Ever so.

And yes, I know the Electronic Frontier Foundation is partly responsible for this.

#7 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2005, 08:02 PM:

Patrick:

Okay, I confess, what you say is rational, whereas I was feverishly riffing on specific citations (i.e. other academics' fever-dreams) from my latest paper, which slipped in before the moratorium. I hope that, if Cyberspace is out, that Outer Space is still in, final-frontier-wise. If you peel away my rhetoric, isn't there a point left?

Yours sincerely,

Dances With Metaphors

#8 ::: Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2005, 09:16 PM:

Jonathan, I may have been unclear about exactly which part of your comment I was responding to. I agree that Cory Doctorow is certainly still something of a pioneer. However, I think that his success with using free electronic availability of his books is not due just to novelty, or his active web presence, or the fact that he writes exceptionally cool stuff. I think that Baen and National Academy of Sciences Press--two really different publishers who've implemented free electronic availability of their books in very different ways--have demonstrated that this can be a very effective marketing technique, always assuming the basic condition that you've got stuff that people want to read. I think it's the timidity of publishers and authors that has held it back. Cory's not timid, and Tor is, at least, less timid than a lot of other publishers, even if it hasn't jumped in the deep end the way Baen and NASP have.

#9 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2005, 09:33 PM:

It's actually just the National Academies Press now.

#10 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2005, 10:59 PM:
Hardly anyone really wants to read large bodies of text on the screen. If you've got something that people will want to read if they get a serious sample of it, making it readily available electronically will cause many of them to go looking for a print copy.

Writers have been posting sample chapters on their websites for years, but as far as I can tell, it hasn't driven their sales up. If I'm wrong, please let me know.

What makes people want to buy a book that's entirely available online, when they're less likely to buy one that has a free partial online?

#11 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2005, 11:35 PM:

Harry Connelly:
What makes people want to buy a book that's entirely available online...?

Speaking as a reader, I find that knowing that a book is available for free changes the author/reader relationship, and for the better. There are a thousand books competing for my attention; if an author has made his Real Book also Virtually Available, it indicates a degree of trust and a degree of confidence on the part of the author. Which makes this reader not only take notice, but feel positively disposed toward the work.

At any given moment, there are easily a hundred Real Books in my own "to be read" queue. Scalzi and Doctorow are in that stack at least partially because I like the fact that they trust their readers.

#12 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2005, 05:33 AM:

Alex: and they seem to not want to be available - I get a "403 Forbidden" error when I try to look at pages under the NAP.edu domain, be it the space science category, the browse titles by category page, or, indeed, the index. I wonder if this is one of those times when people have said "let's lock out all the foreigners"?

#13 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2005, 07:18 AM:

Like cd, I can't get to anything so far in the "www.nap.edu" area, though The National Academies site at www.nationalacademies.org is available.

A semi-random cliction of links from the reachable site gives me quite a few reachable pages & a couple of "403: Forbidden" which aren't NAP. It's possible these might be "Members Only", but there is no login step or message beyond a standard 403 page to indicate that.

How are other peoples going with this? Is it something the NAP would like to know about? Or just a subtle <ahem> way of reducing server load ...

#14 ::: Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2005, 09:32 AM:

I was just able to get into the HTML version of Assessment of Options for Extending the Life of the Hubble Space Telescope: Final Report (2005) on the NAP site with no difficulty; the pdf version requires a short survey which I decided not to actually put to the test right now. It's possible that they'd limit access to US users, but I didn't see anything that suggested that. Emailing them to ask might not be a bad idea; there might simply be a problem no one's told them about yet.

#15 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2005, 09:52 AM:

It works for me now, too. Odd.

#16 ::: Jon ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2005, 09:59 AM:

>Speaking as a reader, I find that knowing that a book is available for free changes the author/reader relationship, and for the better.

That's the same reason I tend to buy/consider buying books from writers who offer writing advice on their sites, if they have it to give. These people move from Deity Authors to People I Kinda Know, and I always like to support my friends. Likewise with those who "trust me" enough to give me their books for free. I like being (abstractly, since these folks don't know me) trusted, and it makes me respond by liking the truster.

What isn't clear to me is, if Cory and John and the Baen folks' method takes off and 60-70% of authors make their books available online for free, it won't return things eventually to the current status quo, and maybe make things worse overall... "I can't afford to keep up with -all- my 'friends,'" my own thinking might morph into. "And all these great books are free!" Thus I'd never "get around" to buying the print copies ("get around" quoted because I suspect it would be much more deliberate, but I'd sell it to myself as "one day...")

In other words, it would, I tend to think, erode the bond if everyone did it. And without that bond-advantage, things are back to writers not getting the benefit of the doubt from the reader. Add that to the postulated preponderance of largely free stuff, and it may turn out to be a disincentive to purchasing.

Now, sample books, that's another thing altogether. If a writer is giving away a book they wrote in the beginning/middle of their career, but not giving away the farm (that's the Baen model, yes?), then I can see readers using these books as an intro to whatever writer, and falling in love with the style or whatever, and buying new stuff.

#17 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2005, 11:14 AM:

Does Bruce Sterling's release of The Hacker Crackdown into the wild back into '94 affect this discussion at all?

#18 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2005, 11:25 AM:

I know this might not be the best forum to say this in, but Baen's attitude to free electronic texts has made them my favourite publisher.

Living in the UK, but not in London, I don't have many good genre bookshops in my local area. It's hard to get new SF books (other than those by British authors[1]) without ordering them. The question is: which books do you order? If they were on the shelves I'd have a flick through them, pick books that looked interesting from their opening pages, etc. This isn't really an option for me. I buy a lot on recommendation, but Baen's free books have allowed me to sample books by a whole range of authors I'd never have tried before. And the CD that came with David Weber's "War of Honor" was something special. These things have helped me a lot.


[1]: I sometimes suggest that the Science Fiction shelves in W H Smiths should be renamed the Iain M Banks shelves. His books seem to take up well over half the space in my local shop. And about half the fantasy is Pratchett.

#19 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2005, 12:52 PM:

"What makes people want to buy a book that's entirely available online...?"

As a reader. . . I've been known to buy books that I've already READ in LIBRARIES. So I own them. Also, have bought them to give to people who are otherwise hard to shop for.

( World Fire, Stephen J. Pyne, is one of the covet-and-own books. I highly recommend it; it's the last book I can point to that visibly changed my thought patterns. )

#20 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2005, 01:37 PM:

Jules:

I sometimes suggest that the Science Fiction shelves in W H Smiths should be renamed the Iain M Banks shelves. His books seem to take up well over half the space in my local shop.

If it makes you feel better, the SF shelves in the big chain bookstores on this side of the Atlantic seem to consist of face cords of schlocky series. I was absolutely thrilled to pick up a copy of The Algebraist at the airport (!) - I had a stopover at Heathrow a couple of months ago - since it won't be out in the States until the fall.

#21 ::: michelle db ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2005, 02:29 PM:

"What makes people want to buy a book that's entirely available online...?"

Like Sandy, I have read books in libraries which I then bought. I also have bought a book in paperback, found it to be wonderful, and then purchased it in hardback. In these cases I find I want to have the bookness of a story as well as the story itself.

#22 ::: Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2005, 02:38 PM:

What makes people want to buy a book that's entirely available online, when they're less likely to buy one that has a free partial online?

When a book is available in its entirety online, it's easier to get sucked into reading enough of it that you're hooked and have to buy it. When only a chapter or two is available online, I ask myself, which sections did the author or publisher choose to post? The best ones, of course. Meaning, quite possibly, the rest of the book may not be quite as good. When the whole text is there, I can do what I do in the bookstore--open it at random, start reading, jump to another section, start reading that--and see if I get grabbed enough that I want to spend money on the whole book. Sample chapters selected by the author or the publisher are just not the same, and can even be somewhat off-putting.

I'm not saying this is fair, mind you.

#23 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2005, 02:49 PM:

What makes people want to buy a book that's entirely available online, when they're less likely to buy one that has a free partial online?

Well, I for one have too many complete unread books sitting on my own shelves to gamble on investing any time on one that I don't have complete access to. Suppose I was to read an online chapter, and like it. Any number of things could go wrong from there -- I might never find the book in my bookstore, it might be out of stock at Amazoon, I might forget to order it or be too broke or.... you get the idea. Life is just too short to start reading a chapter of a book when I don't have the whole thing already in my grasp.

(For the same reason, I don't knowingly start reading a series book unless all of the published titles are already in my possession.)

I'm not a huge consumer of online books (there's too much computer screen in my life as it is) but I have read one or two and I can imagine diving into a new one. Contrast with zero chance I'd start reading a "sample chapter" online.

There's also a substantial probability that if I did start reading a complete online book, and liked it, I would (after reading ten pages or so) open Amazon in a second window, order the physical book, close both windows in satisfaction, and get on with life.

#24 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2005, 06:02 PM:

Y'know, the one paragraph quote from me in the article was a bit sparse; I actually gave the journalist in question a lengthy answer to a whole bunch of questions they asked, and if Patrick or Teresa say "do it" I'll post it on this thread.

If they don't, well ... the quote I'm most annoyed about not seeing in print is roughly along the lines of: "here in the real world, away from the internet, we have a different name for people who take copies of books and let strangers read them without paying money or asking the author's consent -- we call them 'librarians'."

#25 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2005, 06:57 PM:

Patrick, as long as we don't use sports metaphors.

#26 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2005, 07:35 PM:

I tend to think of a "book" as a data container; this is perhaps because I've read "books" in clay tablets, in wax tablets, in papyrus and vellum scrolls, in vellum and paper sheets, and even in vellum and paper codices.

Some containers are more durable than others; some are easier to read on a plane or bus. I tend to think about where I'll be doing my reading, and buy the most suitable container. Sometimes I buy the same book in several different containers.

#27 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2005, 10:10 PM:

> finding texts that audiences want to read and
> signaling to those audiences that, hey, this
> is something neat,”

Publishing also seems to be about printing the books in sufficient quantities to be able to sell them cheap enough that people buy them but with enough profit margin to be able to absorb 50% returns and still be able to buy groceries at the end of the day/week/month/quarter.

#28 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2005, 10:16 PM:

> I can't untangle is how much
> his apparent success

open source approaches does not by itself guarantee success of any kind. free crap is still free crap. free crap that is in wiki format can be greatly improved so that it is free-mediocre, or possibly even free-kick-butt.

I'd be curious if there were any substantial derivatives of Cory's book.

#29 ::: Nancy Hanger ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2005, 01:05 AM:

1994 was a good year to start an ebook revolution. Let's not forget Philip Greenspun's Travels With Samantha, which he published on the Web in 1994, then was picked up and published as a printed book in 2000 (and is still in print, which ain't bad for a coffeetable book).

I may be misremembering, but the site gets something like 1,000 or more visitors a day still, and I believe Greenspun mentioned something along the lines of "they get to chapter 4 or 5" as an average exit point where many people click on a link to buy the printed book. (I ran across the statistic while consulting as a tech editor for his Morgan-Kaufmann edition of Database-Backed Website Publishing a while back, but my memory fades.)

We're readers, folks. We're book geeks. Face it. We read the back of cereal boxes not because it's great prose, but because we didn't pick up a magazine to bring to the table -- and we must read something.

If anyone here hasn't experienced the need to read, they're reading the wrong blog.

But selling ebooks to the geeks and uberreaders, and printed books to average readers, ain't a bad combination. It works. But this is where Baen* ended up taking a slightly different road: free books, free largish samples, and the "webscriptions" format, which sells books as, essentially, e-galleys -- books before they come out in printed format.

That's why I recommended (and still recommend) a different format than just selling an ebook version of a finished printed book at the same time printed books are in bookstores: you need something to hook the uberreaders, who were and still are the primary users of Palm-like (or Rocketbook-like) devices for reading, the focus audience, in marketing-speak.

(* The Webscriptions site isn't Baen; it's the guy who runs the Webscriptions stuff for Jim Baen as an independent contractor. His site doesn't have the free books or anything else that's non-Webscriptions. Easy to confuse, as the site doesn't disclose that it isn't run by Baen Books itself.)

#30 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2005, 09:51 AM:

Declaration of intent: if Tor chooses to buy my book (The Day of Clouds, by Stephen Eley, available wherever fine books are piled for Teresa's consideration) I would be entirely happy to arrange to give it away for free as well. >8->

I'd be even happier to podcast it.

#31 ::: Sundre ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2005, 10:04 PM:

I've been known to beg, plead, cajole, and harass various public libraries into improving their collections. My crowning achievement: the Calgary Public Library now has the complete Sandman series of comic books.

Alas, they did not succumb til a week before I moved, so I'm still going to have to buy them myself.

#32 ::: Neil Rest ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2005, 01:30 PM:

“The essential enterprise of publishing is finding texts that audiences want to read and signaling to those audiences that, hey, this is something neat,”

What the internet/web has needed the most is the editorial function. It's been great fun watching blogs develop this function, being further leveraged by such more recent experiments as technorati and de.li.ci.ous (or wherever they put the dots).

#33 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2005, 01:41 PM:

[ Patrick said "go post it" so here it is -- my response to the Book Standard journalist's questions about free ebooks, in full ... ]

Q: The first question is, of course, why you chose to make an electronic version of the book available before the print version comes out-- and why you decided to make one available at all.

A: First, let me say that it's common practice these days for publishers to release a couple of chapters of their new books on the web, as a teaser. The rationale for this is that the ecommerce business needs some sort of equivalent of shelf-browsing. Readers don't buy totally unfamiliar works or authors, but if you can make a reader in a shop pick a book up and open it you're halfway to a sale, and the same is true of the web. If you've ever read one of these samples, it may well have motivated you to order a hardcopy book. So I'd say that the practice of putting extracts on the web is on a sound footing (and note Amazon's support for it of late).

Putting the *entire* book on the web is a bit more controversial -- at least, to people who haven't investigated the marketing response from it, or realized that it happened as long ago as 1992, when Bruce Sterling released the text of "The Hacker Crackdown" after the paperback had been in print for a year. But these days, a number of publishers are experimenting with it. There is one clear advantage to it: readers like samples, and the ultimate sample is the entire book. People are more likely to download the entire thing, because there's the promise that they can read it all on their computer. However, in practice most people don't like reading on a screen or a PDA. If they get hooked, they'll continue reading until it hits their personal pain threshold -- then they're highly motivated to seek out the paper edition (in hardcover, if necessary).

A secondary consequence is that you get lots of coverage very cheaply. In the first week on the web, I've logged 22,000 direct downloads of ACCELERANDO from my web server. Another 500-1000 users have downloaded it via BitTorrent. I can't put a figure on the number of readers who have acquired copies from direct consumers yet, but I've got the logging facilities in place to produce some figures in due course. (There's not much point in doing so in the first month.)

Q: Are you concerned that the electronic version will affect sales of the hard copy?

A: Yes -- that's the whole idea!

When Cory Doctorow released the entire text of his first novel, "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom" (Tor, 2003) on the web, he got 35,000 downloads in the first month, and probably a total in the hundreds of thousands over the first year (including secondary download sites). For an anonymous midlist novel, it then went on to sell very well indeed in hardcover and trade (I believe both editions were reprinted). Given the huge number of readers who may download a free ebook edition, even a 1% sell-through rate translates to a rather nice boost in the bottom line.

Again, Baen Books -- a medium-sized SF/fantasy publisher -- have taken to releasing free ebook editions of some of their titles, when their paperback sales peak is past. They've noted a strong secondary sales blip, mostly affecting hardcovers, when the ebook comes out. It seems that readers like novel-sized samples and in many cases they aren't content to own just the e-text -- they want the paper artifact as well.

Q: Is this the first book you've made available online? (and it's the full text, right?) How long has Accelerando been online?

A: It's the first published novel I've made available online -- for values of "published" that approximate to "coming out next week". ACCELERANDO will be published by Ace on July 1st, and in the UK by Orbit (Time Warner UK) on August 4th. The ebook went online on the 17th of June, two weeks ahead of first US publication. This release schedule was discussed and agreed with input from the editorial and marketing people at both publishers, for maximum impact. It takes readers time to digest an ebook, and by running it two weeks ahead of the official publication date we're aiming to give them enough lead time for anticipation to build, while not so much time that the memory goes stale.

Q: Do you think this kind of strategy would work for authors like Dan Brown or Stephen King or J.K. Rowling as well?

A: In a word, no.

The primary commercial reason for pursuing a free ebook strategy is to build market awareness of your product. It's a supplement to word-of-mouth and conventional marketing, not a replacement. The best-selling authors have already reached saturation in this respect, and giving away free samples won't help build their sales further. For example: I have not read Dan Brown's novels, but I know enough about them, through word of mouth, to know that they're not the sort of thing that appeals to me. Free samples probably wouldn't add anything to this.

In contrast, like all midlist writers I face a major obstacle: most people who might buy my books haven't actually heard of me, or read enough of my work to get hooked. So I can benefit a lot by making myself more accessible to the audience.

Q: Do you think it hurts the Biggest-name authors more than it hurts midlist writers?

A: I don't think it hurts at all.

Here in the non-internet world, we have a technical term for people who, without the permission of the authors, take copies of their books and give them away for free to lots of readers: we call them "librarians". Complaining about readers "hurting sales" by reading free ebook copies "instead of" buying the paper edition is a bit like complaining that library withdrawals hurt sales. It assumes a false either/or dichotomy. In the first instance, some library users are too poor to buy the book in the first place -- hence, they are not a lost sale: they were never a potential sale in the first place. Secondly, many library users go on to buy copies of books they first read via the library. The library is a great browsing opportunity, and only drives sales in the long term. I think that sector of the publishing industry that angsts loudly about "ebook pirates" is missing the point by the mile -- the readers are not your enemy, and once you start viewing your ebook rights as a marketing opportunity to boost your paper sales, rather than as an unfeasible and unusable profit centre, things fall into place and the pain is replaced by gain.

Ebooks are worth much less to readers than a paper edition. They're harder to read, they're not useful and ornamental artefacts either. If they're encrypted using DRM they're worth drastically less than a paper book -- you can't lend them to a friend and say "read this" -- frequently you can't even copy them to a new computer when you upgrade! Commercial ebooks therefore sell rather poorly compared to paper editions. But by the same token, a freely available ebook edition is a hugely powerful viral marketing tool.

If we're talking about sources of pain, the real pain comes when someone starts producing unauthorized commercial editions of a work. That's why I released ACCELERANDO under a license (from Creative Commons) that explicitly forbids the creation of derivative works and redistribution on a for-profit basis. If anyone breaks that license, my publishers and I want a cut of the money. But it hasn't happened yet: the availability of a free ebook actually undercuts the profitability of pirate paper or electronic editions.

Q: Why do you think more publishers don't use this as a marketing device?

A: They're beginning to do so. The main problem is inertia; nobody wants to risk the company, so proposals to do this sort of thing tend to get referred to a committee where they die. Baen were able to start aggressively using this technique because as a small company (about 8 staff, total) they had no such barrier to adopting a new technique. They've been doing it for about six years, now. Meanwhile, the larger publishers are beginning to do it. When I first proposed it to Ace and Orbit, the idea was met with blank incomprehension -- then they discovered they'd already been doing it (in a parallel non-fiction imprint) and it slotted right into place immediately. As more imprints and more staff become familiar with this device it will become commonplace.

(INTERVIEW ENDS)

#34 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2014, 03:47 PM:

We talk about stand mixers a fair amount around here, but this one is spam.

#35 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2014, 03:51 PM:

Besides, this thread is about word processing not food processing.

#36 ::: Sandy B. sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2014, 04:36 PM:

Spam!

Related to the original topic: I just tried reading a Project Gutenberg HTML version of The Scarlet Letter, as I'd never read it and someone mentioned it.

Ow.

To the library with me.

#37 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2014, 12:36 AM:

Sandy B:

Unfortunately, Project Gutenberg ebooks have wildly inconsistent quality, as every book is uploaded by volunteers, some of whom, alas, considered proofreading a waste of time. Those books uploaded by Distributed Proofreaders are usually pretty good, as they've had lots of different sets of eyes on each page, but DP is far from the only provider of Gutenberg books. Also, the older the book is on PG, the less likely it'll be in anything other than ASCII. Or a machine-translation from ASCII, which is, shall we say, not always ideal.

Still, it's better to have even imperfect copies of all those books available than to not have them at all.

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