Was it just yesterday that I came up with that “brilliant” idea for saving publishing? You know, the idea of author’s selling peeks of their books for a buck and then giving them the option to buy the rest, a la iTunes?
Farking Amazon and their spelunking Kindle. Apparently they announced yesterday that you can get a FREE Kindle reader app for iPhones, and as part of the whole Kindle shebang that means you can read the first three chapters for free before buying a book.
See how this works in reverse, see how this screws authors? Amazon and the publishers are perfectly fine with giving away a writer’s property in the hopes they can capitalize on it, but the writer gets paid AFTER Amazon and the publisher do. They use the work of others (writers) as the free lure that will allow them to snag the dollars and then parcel out what they deem fitting to a writer. This is upside down, and writers need to get it and get it quick so they can flip the model.
Now I know, you can walk into any bookstore and flip through a book (heck, I’ve seen people read entire books) before paying for it, and Amazon and publishers can argue that they’re just following that model. Uh uh, no, we don’t live in that world anymore. People are savvy, and their disposable income is more limited, and the top down models have proven (have they not) a disparity between the corporate leeches and the underpaid line workers who earn them their golden parachutes and bailout retreats. With content delivery becoming the issue it’s a question of who controls the content, who is deciding the terms.
Writers, we need to seriously crawl out of our caves and think about this. When Amazon was pushing books (and later other goods) they were providing a supply service that could not be matched by the individual. You could not, for example, publish and ship and process your books on your own, nor could you do it with the speed or volume that Amazon could, without incurring huge costs. Now that the product — the content, the actual text itself — can be sent and read electronically there is no reason to allow Amazon to do what you can do on your own. Amazon had to create a proprietary e-reader because they knew that otherwise they couldn’t control the content and would get cut out of their share of your money.
I was going to go with a child sex worker analogy here, but it seemed a bit coarse. How about this. If you were a farmer (writer), and you could deliver your produce (book) with your own truck (computer) to your neighbors (readers), why would you sell the produce (book) to a distributor (publisher) who would brand it and ship it to a supermarket chain (Amazon) who will ship it back to your local store (Kindle) for your neighbors to buy?
If publishing wants to survive it needs to start partnering with the writer to figure out how to best deliver content; and if writers wish to get paid they need to partner with their publishers before they are out of business and have to start dealing with Amazon directly. You think Amazon is going to deliver better advances? If the publishers go under, Amazon and its Kindle will still need content, and in that arrangement between the writer and Amazon, who is going to come out ahead?
I’m still good with what I said yesterday. Writers need to get theirs up front and everyone else down the line comes next. There’s a very small (relatively small) window here where this can be corrected, where writers and publishers can help each other and not simply become part of the Amazon supply chain.
One last thought: Back in the day when I was quasi active in the ‘zine community (anyone remember zines?) there was this idea that you never gave away your zines, you always put a price on them. Even if your main concern was getting the word out the prevailing wisdom was that your effort was worth something, even a nominal charge to cover costs if nothing else. It’s very simple, really – if you don’t think your work is worth something, why should anyone else take it seriously? Is there reliable data behind this idea that giving away something for free really entices buyers, or does it only entice those whose primary concern is “free” before “content?”
Anyone have a line on Stephen King? I wonder what he thinks.