17 April 2010

answer about the evil e-publishers

I've been trying to take part in a discussion on piracy on another blog, but the blog owner seems to have replies limited to somewhere around 100 words. To reply to her in detail, I would need to post more than 10 times, which is just not going to work. I have INVITED her to read this and reply either here or at his blog, since I imagine that further replies will be much shorter. So, don't be confused by this way the blog post starts

With all due respect, you are parroting a lot of craptrap and rationalization that the pirates use (not the publishers you call pirates...the pirates who are passing books to thousands at a shot). Example?

e-Publishers are fleecing the readers by charging too much and using DRM and releasing e-book later or not at all and so forth?

Get with the program. I agree NY conglomerate publishing are complete idiots when it comes to e-book, in general. The one that may have its head on straight is Carina Press from Harlequin. I agree that Amazon is just as backward, in many ways. I'd even go so far as to say that Nook's DRM needs work before it will stop hacking off readers. But...

This sort of blanket statement is neither representative of the facts nor helpful to the cause of more reasonable authors. Lumping all e-publishers together is doing a disservice to e-publishing, as a whole. e-Publishers include a lot more than NY conglomerate presses, and they don't deserve to be lumped together this way. Call it what it is...NY conglomerate publishing, and for what it's worth, they are NOT the larger e-publishers out there. Their print is the larger print market. Just so we're straight.

If you want to know the truth...

Indie press, who put out the lion's share of e-books from publishers today and have for the last 15+ years, usually charge $5-7 for a novel-length fiction book. From surveys I've run, 52.5% of readers like that pricing range, 27% are comfortable with higher than that amount...and only 20.5% want less than $5 (though 11% of them only want less than $5 for authors unknown to them, while paying $5-7 for authors they know, so the $5-7 gets an additional percentage from there that I didn't count above. From dealing with readers more directly than NY conglomerate does (indie considers READERS our market and the distribution channels as the means to get to that market, while NY conglomerates have already been caught saying they consider the distribution channels their market...rolling eyes), we know the balance with readers well. In the last 8 years, I have seen indie publishers drop their novel-length prices from $7.50 to $6 as a median, in their testing of what the readers want to pay. Saying that e-publishers (broad brush) charge too much for e-book is doing nothing but playing into the pirate's mindset. It's one of the excuses pirates use to justify not just passing NY conglomerate books but also indie books that are reasonably priced.

Would I agree that $15 for an e-book is too much? Yes. Do I think NY conglomerate needs to make mistakes and learn from them, because they are the babes in the woods? Unfortunate but true. This is one of the few things they refuse to take indie's lead on, Carina excluded.

Your average indie doesn't use DRM, save where the distrbution channel requires it. If you want to play in their pond, you play by their rules. According to the latest survey I've done on DRM, only 18% of readers don't care if the books are DRMd or not. 22% said they would pay more for a book without DRM than with. 50% said they only purchase a book with DRM when there is no other choice available, and 20% said they won't purchase an e-book with DRM ever. I didn't have a huge turnout on it, which may say there are more that are ambivalent (or decided) and didn't get counted, but to be fair...I invited Amazon readers to take part. Shrug. If they wanted to be counted, they had their chance.

Your average indie publisher and indie author knows that DRM doesn't work. We know the down sides and know there is no up side to DRM. We also know that any book can be pirated...with DRM, without, and even print only.

All the indies I deal with are doing e-book concurrently with print or before print. I had one that was doing print only, and I no longer work with them. Why? It was clear to me that they were far behind the curve of publishing.

The truth is that the pirates we loathe are the ones you say you don't want to address...the ones putting books on sites for thousands to download. Stopping incidental sharing is impossible. You can't police it, since it happens hand-to-hand off the big pirate sites. If it's limited to 6-10, it's no worse than the e-book library and Nook or Kindle sharing programs we already support. But, unfettered hand-to-hand passing can add up to more than 10,000 illegal copies of a book in 13 passes, even with a share with two to share with two passing and 25% or so not passing the book along. For obvious reasons, authors are going to educate readers to try and keep that from happening. And anywhere we can SEE piracy, we're going to try and stop it. Beyond the potenial lost sales, there's a lovely little piece of copyright law that says "Defend it or lose it."

Further, many indie authors and publishers give free reads, something you claim will help avert piracy. I personally have more than a dozen of them and still see pirated copies of my other works running rampant. I'm all for the free reads. I MAY even experiment with the free first book in a series option when one goes out of contract. I've done them short term, but I'd be willing to experiment with a free first book every day option, just for the experiment. I know how it works over a week, and I've seen how it works for Baen, which is why I'm willing to try it.

Most of the indie authors out there SUPPORT access to books that are legally purchased. Even my own publishers (indie publishers) don't mind me saying that breaking DRM to have a text to speech read to you or to backup copies of your books or convert them for other readers you own should not be illegal. It should only be an issue when the once-secured book is further pirated.

BTW, it's not just NY conglomerate presses (4 of which are foreign owned, BTW...which I personally find amusing, considering their lump name) who are causing the problem you perceive. Look at some of the advice Author Guild gives those conglomerates. If you want a headache, start there.

One thing pirates need to learn. If you want the NY conglomerates to change their ways, piracy is not the way to do it. They don't learn anything from boycotts. They don't learn anything from sales they never make. The only thing they DO learn from is which format you choose to buy when and at which prices. One thing that MIGHT make them think twice is if you tell them you will choose to purchase from the indies and your reasons why. If you do that, you make them look twice.


1 comment:

M Pax said...

Interesting article, Brenna. Thanks for sharing.