Authors Guild Worried About iPad Ebook File Sharing… But Focused On The Wrong Thing

from the people-are-reading! dept

A little over a year ago, we discussed the idea that the ebook world needed more “piracy,” noting that the locked down nature of the Kindle actually limited a large part of what might help kick off the real ebook world. History has shown time and time again that so-called “piracy” is often a leading indicator of innovation in areas that people are interested in. But, unauthorized sharing in ebooks was still somewhat limited. Of course, some things have changed over the past year. There was the lawsuit against Scribd (which, last I heard, failed to get class action status) and then sudden totally unsubstantiated articles warning about unauthorized ebook file sharing.

Now, the latest, is the fear that with the success of the iPad in the market that it will become a popular platform for unauthorized sharing of ebooks. Apparently, author Scott Turow has recently taken over the Authors Guild, and has decided that ebook “piracy” is a “big problem” that has to be the focus. Perhaps next time the Authors Guild wants to show itself to be forward-looking and able to change with the times, it shouldn’t put a 60+ year old lawyer in charge. Just a suggestion… Rather than saying that unauthorized file sharing is such a big problem, perhaps Turow should take a look at the music industry more closely. He seems to only be superficially aware of what’s happening in that industry. Instead of recognizing that the industry wasted over a decade fighting what fans wanted, he seems to think that he can magically fight what every other industry has failed to fight. That doesn’t seem like a strategy that has a high likelihood of success.

Perhaps, instead of automatically blaming those involved in file sharing, Turow should take some time to understand why it’s happening, and look at those who have figured out interesting and unique models to provide more value for consumers who want it, rather than just focusing on the impossible task of trying to punish those whose actions the Authors Guild doesn’t like.

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Comments on “Authors Guild Worried About iPad Ebook File Sharing… But Focused On The Wrong Thing”

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Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: History is cool

“Music, video, movies, e-books all these middlemen keep repeating the same mistakes.”

What’s weird is that publishers and authors surely have less to fear from filesharing eBooks than those other industries. I know there are some people who LIKE to have a physical copy of a DVD or album, but that is nothing compared to the emotional attachment people seem to have for hard copy books, particularly with fiction.

Sigh, I just don’t get it. It seems to me that you need less RtB with fiction hard copies than anything else. Why WOULDN’T everyone just go the Baen route? Or better yet, why wouldn’t publishers offer an eBook copy of every physical book they sell via email to the purchaser? It seems to me there are VAST amounts of money to be made by properly promoting works of fiction via the internet….

Sneeje (profile) says:

Re: Re: History is cool

I agree with you, but perhaps the angst is in the “pulp” novels that people use more as escapism and time-fillers than true literary enjoyment. For example, I’m sad to admit that I went through a phase where I read like 50 or so star trek novels. Those were written for volume not quality.

But then again, most people probably did what I did for those, which is get them from the library, borrow them, etc. I probably only bought a handful.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Re: History is cool

I agree I would rather read the paper version of sci fi than the e-book version. This is doubly so for technical manuals.

The thing I see though is they are setting themselves up for failure because they are concentrating on infringement rather than the business model. The really cool thing about all these associations (RIAA, MPAA, Authors Guild, etc) is that their charters, goals, and stated purposes are in direct conflict with the continued long term survivability of the industries they represent.

They create guess work (fake) reports that their own industry takes as gospel, they use a stick to tackle the problems thrown at them with no carrot, they dont realize they are a service industry.

History will repeat itself again, driven by the actions of the Authors Guild.

RD says:

Been thinking about this..

I’ve been thinking about this (and what DH says) for a while now. I think my “preferred model”, and I dont know how well or even if it would work, would be to have a cheap paperback version to use as giveaways/samples, send to libaries (either free or cheap) and any other venue where an inexpensive, physical copy would be needed, and then have a “Deluxe” edition that is hardcover, limited, signed and numbered, and INCLUDES a cd or DVD with the entire book on tape (mp3, most likely) and the ebook, along with any other “goodies” like sample art or what have you. The paperback sells for a little over cost or whatever ($5? $7?) and the Deluxe is like $30. Would prefer to sell the Deluxe only direct (and bypass the 50% discount to the middlemen) but that might not work for new or lesser known authors. Still, if you could get 2-5000 dedicated fans, you could earn a good living this way and not stress about “piracy” since you are bundling the digital with the scarce.

Sneeje (profile) says:

Re: Been thinking about this..

Yeah, I think that’s thinking in the right direction and what the middlemen are really worried about. The ideas of a certain scale of distribution and market impact necessary for an author to make a living are outdated. With many of the costs of distribution removed, the authors need to figure out how to get noticed and then build a business model on a much smaller scale (hopefully). DH can speak to it better based on his experiences, but it makes sense to me.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Been thinking about this..

“DH can speak to it better based on his experiences, but it makes sense to me.”

Well, I don’t yet have a wealth of experience thus far, but it seems to me that I’ve found one of the key differences between music/movies and books that makes the literary world so difficult: marketing. You see tons of TV/Movie adverts for more movies, and even a decent amount of music. The radio ads are littered with both. But the ads you see/hear for books are few and far between.

That has to do with a lot of things, but mostly it’s about the cost of advertising relevant to the amount of money you expect it to generate. Books just aren’t as profitable, due to there being, you know, so freaking many of them.

So let’s go back to my original idea. You sell a hardcopy book, and the purchaser gets a free copy of the eBook sent to their email address. Now that the publisher has that email, they can VERY DELICATELY direct market similar authors or future works. And since it’s done via email, the cost of this is relatively negligable.

I just don’t buy that eBook readers are going to be to books as iPods are to music. It’ll happen a little bit, but in a much lesser volume. That makes sharing of electronic books ALL THE MORE useful. And since we all know the key is getting heard at all, the direct marketing you can do via email would be killer….

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

basically, mike puts things out there because he agrees with them. when he thinks they are wrong (such as anything the riaa does) he rakes them over the coals. in two discussions now of this issue, he has been very receptive to the idea of piracy to advance a format. remembering that many of his suggested business models are based on piggybacking on piracy, and you sort of get the picture. if mike was against piracy, he would shoot these articles down and say ‘piracy is bad, and if you need piracy to somehow succeed, you have already failed’. but he isnt doing that, is he?

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“in two discussions now of this issue, he has been very receptive to the idea of piracy to advance a format.”

Sigh, really? Can you truly ONLY see things from a single PoV? Let me see if I can make this REALLY simple for you:

If your business model is based on freely distributing some content, namely digital, for free, then IT ISN’T FUCKING PIRACY ANYMORE, STUNAD! It isn’t about leveraging illegal behavior. It’s about making that behavior legal and then using it to make money.

I really can’t see why this is so difficult….

RD says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

“if your business model is based on freely distributing some content, namely digital, for free, then IT ISN’T FUCKING PIRACY ANYMORE, STUNAD! It isn’t about leveraging illegal behavior. It’s about making that behavior legal and then using it to make money.

I really can’t see why this is so difficult….”

OH thats easy DH. The reason he cant understand it is because the greedy incumbent Big Media pays lapdogs like TAMhole to try to brainwash everyone into believing that ANY unpaid usage is THEFT. In TAMworld, you simply CANNOT, in any way, have anything that isnt paid for, preferably EACH USAGE. To not pay the his corporate masters for EACH enjoyment of EACH thing is tantamount to a capital offense, and people should AT LEAST be sued, if not executed, for daring to STEAL from the Mighty Gods of Media. Tamshit and his corporate assmasters can only see things one way: Money flows FROM you TO them, in EVERY case. ANYTHING that exists outside of this paradigm is ILLEGAL, in their eyes. Want to self publish? ILLEGAL! Want to give away your work? THIEF! Want to try to leverage free to sell the scarce? YOU DIRTY FUCKING COMMIE PIRATE! YOU ARE DESTROYERS OF AMERICA!

This is the thinking of TAM and his masters.

Mike Read (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“he would shoot these articles down and say ‘piracy is bad, and if you need piracy to somehow succeed, you have already failed'”

You’re right, he’s not doing that. Because he recognises how using the technology and systems of piracy to legally distribute infinite goods can raise the value of scarce goods.

Also, I distinctly remember Mike explicitly saying that he does not condone piracy.

Just to back up my point, here’s a post by Mike explicitly saying he does not condone piracy. I know it’s an old one, but I couldn’t remember the exact wording for a search for a more recent one that I read.

RD says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

“Just to back up my point, here’s a post by Mike explicitly saying he does not condone piracy. I know it’s an old one, but I couldn’t remember the exact wording for a search for a more recent one that I read.”

Oh man, you really need to stop with the FACTS here! You cant just go around providing EVIDENCE man! That will completely undermine the propagandist brainwashing attempts by TAMhole and his Corporate Masters to lie and vilify Mike and anyone who agrees with him by using hearsay and falsehoods!

out_of_the_blue says:

Medieval "Author's Guild" wants "royalties".

Their own terms declare that they want an “entitlement”, which is the authority (again note the significance) to collect money from you peasants, granted by the king out of favor, not any reason. You *might* argue that it’s a bit less than literally so nowadays, but clearly that’s what *they* wish.

channing says:

Re: arr

I totally agree, asking for $25 for an ebook from the publishers is daylight robbery – if Tesco can sell the book for less than £10 then surely an ebook should be no more than £5 – and at that price everyone would be buying them. Unfortunately the publishers are doing themselves out of legitimate sales by ripping people off, especially when some of these books are more than 10 years old!!

dmc2 says:


It comes to cost for me. If they want $5 for an ebook, it’s not worth the trouble to look for a download. It’s basically an impulse purchase. The downloads typically have errors, are badly formatted, and generally more of a crap shoot on the quality front.

At $15 though, I put up with the trouble. And if I really can’t find it and I really want it, I do end up paying. For paperbacks which cost $8 in print and $9 in ebook form, it’s absolutely infuriating and I usually don’t buy at all as I waste cycles deliberating whether maybe it’s just better to buy it in print anyway.

If you see how Apple’s app store is changing our notions of value. When Apps cost anywhere from $1 to $5, it’s hard to see how a book generates 3x the value of a top video game, or 15 times the value of a basic app.

A different anonymous coward says:

There’s another problem with the music industry analogy which is the time taken to consume the product, and the other avenues available for artists to make money.

A novel takes a reasonable amount of time to read, and some people take weeks over them. A song is done in three minutes, and a movie in 90. So while piracy might possibly stimulate an appetite for an artist’s work, it’s going to be difficult to see how that will help a mid-list author.

The other thing is that a band can give away its music and make money from live performances, but that’s not something available to most authors (who make less than £5,000 a year on average).

If people were prepared to buy their e-books by the chapter, I’d have a bit more hope for the publishing industry. As it stands I can only see the revival of short stories through the e-book medium, but there’s not much sign of that so far.

Of course, this is also ignoring the factual publising industry–biographies, self-help books etc–which may come up with alternatives.

Matt P (profile) says:

It’s not impossible for authors to make money even while “giving away” their books electronically. Boldrin & Levine cited some interesting research RE: the 9/11 Commission report, showing that freely-available online copies of that work didn’t impact sales of the physical book in any noticeable way.

The key criterion there? That work already had a massive pile of “fans” that couldn’t wait to get their hands on a copy. Free or not free, people will still buy things if they have an incentive to buy them – whether that incentive is as simple as being your fan, or because they like having a book in their hands, is fairly irrelevant.

Once you get past the idea that each copy of a file (or each viewing) is a potential sale, you can actually focus on making this business model practical by generating alternate revenue streams along with value-added copies of the actual work.

This means that you’d actually have to spend time and effort marketing, connecting with fans, and coming up with value-added goods to sell them, though. Most just want to sign a contract to a publishing house and have them handle all that. And middle-men are always happy to get their cut.

Ralph-J (profile) says:

Agism is well and alive

Hi Mike, I get your sentiment, and I agree with your points, but the “60+ year old” argument is just plain agism. This kind of thinking is why people like my dad have a hell of a hard time to find another job in the current economy. I suggest that next time, you reword your phrases, at least to make your real opinion less obvious. Just talk about lack of experience in current technologies or something.

DBL says:

Re: Agism is well and alive

Talk about a pointless cause. Do you really expect a world to ever happen in which older people are not generally considered to be out of touch?

Never going to happen.

Maybe people should keep in touch with technology so they won’t appear to be totally clueless to the young. The only way to ensure that happens is to embarrass an entire generation for it.

So, I’m utterly pro-agism in this regard. Keep mocking any old bastard who clearly doesn’t get it. If other people ‘of that age’ don’t like it, they should stand up and be heard for what’s right instead of what’s braindead.

JonG says:

Traffic tells all

Ebooks won’t kill the publishing industry, if my local book stores are any indication. There is a Barnes and Noble, and a Borders across the street from one another. All day long their parking lots are packed. It’s hard to find a parking space (in fairness the borders is in the mall) and the stores themselves are filled with people.

There are lines at the counter during checkout. People are buying books… a lot of books.

I hear that the sales are down, and my observations are anecdotal, to be sure, but from where I sit (when I can find a seat at these stores) business is booming, and ereaders are only a fraction of it.

Defeat DRM with the use of Nintendo DSi XL (user link) says:

Just use your Nintendo DSi XL take a picture of everypage

this whole DRM thing is dumb , all you got to do is take SD card pictures of every page in a book, either on the ipad or ipod touch, with the Nintendo DS i XL camera, you can defeat the DRM if you just take pictures, of each page you read, and then use the jpg images to build your DRM free epub book using calibre or something else, I think for now that the best crack or option, too use on these stupid people know make DRM books that you can’t convert between formats for your devices, just make a zip of all the pages, or some editing but then it would be DRM free with the use of Nintendo DSi XL camera , this would work for any DRM ebook

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