by Mike Masnick
Mon, Aug 9th 2010 4:26am
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Aug 4th 2010 8:49pm
from the business-models... dept
Ross Pruden alerts us to an LA Times story about a company called OpenSky that is apparently helping authors implement additional business models by helping them find tangible products they can sell in association with their books. Indeed, the whole concept seems to fit in with our concept of using infinite goods to make scarce goods more valuable:
A cookbook author, for example, not only sells books through OpenSky but also hawks a favorite barbecue sauce and grill. The author pockets 50% of the profit, with the rest going to OpenSky and others involved in the transaction.I can already hear the critics complaining about this sort of "crass commercialism" that I'm sure is "destroying" the concept of "art for art's sake," but I find it odd that those who focus on the whole "art for art's sake" argument are the same folks who also complain that the changing marketplace means content creators can't make money any more. No one is saying anyone has to adopt these models -- just that for those who feel comfortable doing so, it's now easier than ever to embrace infinite concepts -- and use them to make scarce goods more valuable.
David Hale Smith, a Texas literary agent, was about the only one who hadn't morphed roles since Naples last saw him. After they sat down at a table near that escalator, Smith immediately handed her a copy of a client's newest novel: "So Cold the River" by Michael Koryta. Smith mentioned that it's set in an old hotel in central Indiana known for its Pluto Water, believed to have healthful effects.
Naples lit up: "If [Koryta] was on OpenSky, the novel could be tied to a promotion of the hotel. He could have a button on his site for readers to buy the book and the water." (OpenSky would find a supplier to bottle and ship it.) She described other commercial possibilities: a sneak-peak download of a chapter of his next book, a "webinar" with him discussing his stories.
That said, after reading about all of this, I went and looked at OpenSky, and I don't see any of this on their website. Instead, it looks like a plain old store. If they're really focused on helping content creators, it seems like they would be a lot better off promoting content creators on their site as well.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jun 3rd 2010 9:01am
from the dilbert-calculations? dept
Reader Bluejay alerts us to the news that Adams is exploring the topic again, in a slightly tangential manner. In a blog post highlighting his "theory on content value," where it seems he's reached something like the "acceptance" stage of navigating this particular topic -- though, he's doing so somewhat grudgingly. He kicks it off by noting that unauthorized copies of music represent a huge percentage of the music that people listen to these days (something that I'm not really sure is true) and that as devices like the iPad become more popular, the same thing is likely to happen for books. He's not focused on the locked down nature of the iPad, or its book store, but the fact that it has a browser, and you can find all sorts of unauthorized digital copies of books with little trouble.
From there, he's convinced (accurately) that there's little that can be done to stop this:
Every kid understands that stealing is wrong. But ask the average ten-year old about copyright law and watch for the blank stare. Students are taught to freely download copyrighted content from the Internet for school reports, which I understand is legal in the context of education. And at the same time, every school kid is learning from friends that downloading music and movies from the Internet is common practice. Paying for content on the Internet is strictly a generational thing, and it will pass.That sounds about right. But what does it mean? Well, Adams has a sort of good news/bad news conclusion that I partly agree with:
Those of you reading this blog are already savvy enough to find and download any content you want for free. But I'll bet the average 40-something user of the Internet still wouldn't know how to search the Internet for criminally free content. At some point, I assume, a Google search for any popular book title will return an illegal source at the top of the page. When that happens, Amazon.com will primarily be selling electronics, household products, and clothes.
I predict that the profession known as "author" will be retired to history in my lifetime, like blacksmith and cowboy. In the future, everyone will be a writer, and some will be better and more prolific than others. But no one will pay to read what anyone else creates. People might someday write entire books - and good ones - for the benefit of their own publicity, such as to promote themselves as consultants, lecturers, or the like. But no one born today is the next multi-best-selling author. That job won't exist.I'm not sure that the job of "author" will go away. "Best selling author" is a description of a type of author, so, sure, that might go away if people aren't selling books, but I'm not at all convinced the profession of "author" goes away. It's just that the nature of the job changes. I also think his final statement is just wrong. The economic value of that content doesn't go to zero. The price of that content may approach zero, but as we've pointed out over and over again price and value are not the same thing. In fact, there may be tremendous economic value in that content -- it's just that the economic value is realized elsewhere, by making something else gain a higher price. Adams mentions that authors may write books to help promote themselves, and that's an example of how that economic value is realized elsewhere, in boosting the price people may pay for authors who are also consultants, lecturers or something else entirely.
As an author, my knee-jerk reaction is to assume that the media content of the future will suck because there will be no true professionals producing it. But I think suckiness is solved by better search capabilities. Somewhere out in the big old world are artists who are more talented than we can imagine, and willing to create content for free, for a variety of reasons. And so, as our ability to search for media content improves, the economic value of that content will approach zero.
That said, however, it is nice that Adams admits that, even if his gut reaction is not to like this, he realizes that better tools may actually make sure that the results aren't bad at all (and might even be better). Going back to his earlier posts on copyright and content sharing, he's realizing that what he once thought of as a "loss," might really just be a changing market. That's good to see.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, May 28th 2010 7:39pm
from the it-happens,-move-on dept
People want to share files. There is this much file sharing going on for a reason. It's what people want. Fighting piracy is fighting human nature. This is a battle no one can win. Getting your undies in a bunch at the thought of someone copying your ebook is a waste of a good ulcer. Worry about some problem that eventually will be solved. Like world hunger. Or cancer. Or war. Those will be conquered before file sharing is....The best part is a bit later in the post, where he tries to pre-empt the usual "but it's theft!!!!" arguments with a series of Q&As that read something like many of the comment exchanges we end up having here at Techdirt, by pointing out that it's not the same as stealing a tangible object, and even so it doesn't matter. He also takes on another popular argument made in our comments: but what if artists don't want to embrace new business models:
There is ZERO reliable evidence that file-sharing hurts sales. A shared file does not equal a lost sale, any more than someone reading a library book is a lost sale.
Q: But Joe, if everyone steals your ebooks, how will you make money?Again, the whole thing is a worthwhile read, but highlights a key point that we keep trying to make over and over again. So many keep focusing in on the whole "piracy!" aspect, and that's such a huge waste of time. Why focus on trying to stop something you don't like, when you can put your energy into creating a positive situation that you do like? Why focus on trying to punish people you don't like, when you have so many opportunities to happily engage with people you do like?
A: Show me an artist bankrupted by piracy, and we'll revisit this question.
Q: No, seriously, in a future where everything is free, how will...
A: We're not in a future where everything is free. But I'll play the "let's pretend" game. Let's pretend that all ebooks are free. How will writers make money? The same way all media makes money. Advertising, merchandising, and licensing.
Q: But I don't want ads in ebooks.
A: I don't want ads in anything. But that's how capitalism works. Deal with it.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Apr 8th 2010 8:33pm
from the the-sampling-problem-is-back dept
The hope of nonfiction is to connect readers to something outside the book: the past, a discovery, a social issue. To do this, authors need to draw on pre-existing words and images.Much of his concern is how these costs will multiply in an age of ebooks, but it seems like a serious enough issue from the start. Just the fact that authors who are discussing and building on the works of others are being blocked due to copyright is hugely problematic. In this context, it hardly sounds like the new works would act as substitutes for the old works at all -- but could actually drive more interest in those original works. It's difficult to see why or how copyright policy makes sense in these cases.
Unless we nonfiction writers are lucky and hit a public-domain mother lode, we have to pay for the right to use just about anything -- from a single line of a song to any part of a poem; from the vast archives of the world's art (now managed by gimlet-eyed venture capitalists) to the historical images that serve as profit centers for museums and academic libraries.
The amount we pay depends on where and how the material is used. In fact, the very first question a rights holder asks is "What are you going to do with my baby" Which countries do you plan to sell in? What languages? Over what period of time? How large will the image be in your book?
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Mar 26th 2010 6:08am
from the yakety-yak dept
Now, with the iPad coming out, some are noticing that it, too, contains such text-to-speech capabilities, and yet oddly, we haven't heard complaints from the Authors Guild (found via Copycense). Have they come to their senses, or have they just not realized it yet?
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Nov 16th 2009 3:22am
from the doesn't-really-change-much dept
In my mind, the biggest news is the new restrictions on countries from which it will scan books. From now on, the book scanning project will only scan books that have registered copyrights in the US, UK, Australia or Canada. This was mainly to address ridiculous concerns by some in Europe that this project -- to help make all books more accessible -- was somehow a threat to European culture. I was in Europe on Friday (well, Saturday there) when the announcement was made, and it actually pissed off the folks I talked to about it -- who felt that their politicians were doing serious harm to European books by having them excluded from such a useful resource.
Separately, a lot of the focus on this new agreement, as with the old agreement, is over how Google treats orphan works. Again, I have to admit that I think most people are making a much bigger deal of this than it warrants. The orphan works stuff really covers a very small number of works. And giving rightsholders ten years to claim their rights seems more than adequate to me. I just don't see what the big deal is here. The real issue is that we have orphan works at all. Under the old (more sensible) copyright regime, you actually had to proactively declare your copyright interest. The only reason we have orphan works at all is that we got rid of such a system in the ongoing effort of copyright maximalists to wipe out the public domain.
Anyway, I think this is all something of a sideshow. I still stand by my original feeling towards the settlement, which is that I'm upset anyone felt it was necessary at all. Google had a strong fair use claim that I would have liked to have seen taken all the way through the courts. And, of course, this settlement really has nothing at all to do with the main issue of the lawsuit (that fair use question) and is really a debate over a separate issue: how to take the books Google scans and trying to turn them into a "book store" rather than more of a "library." And, in doing so, the important fair use question gets completely buried -- which I find unfortunate.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Aug 21st 2009 4:18am
from the welcome-to-the-new-world dept
He talks about the success of his own projects, from "pirating" his own books, to having the community make their own movie out of one of his books. At the same time he discusses the rise of technology and the folly of pretending you can fight the technology. It's really a great overall statement on embracing new technologies for anyone who thinks they need to rely on copyright. On top of that, it again confirms the basic premise that we've stated here time and time again: for those who work to connect with their fans directly, there are plenty of ways to do well, even without specifically relying on copyright to do so.
We are facing a new era, so either we adapt or we die. However, I did not come here to share solutions, but my own experience as an author. Of course, I make a living out of my copyrights, but at this very moment I am not concentrating on this. I have to adapt myself. Not only by connecting more directly with my readers -- something unthinkable a few years ago -- but also by developing a new language, Internet-based, that will be the language of the future: direct, simple, without being superficial. Time will tell me how to recover the money I myself am investing alone in my social communities. But I am investing in something for which every single writer in the world would be grateful: to have his texts read by a maximum of people.And the key point he makes? In the past, heretics were punished for sharing their ideas. These days, you'll be punished if you don't share your ideas.
The Internet has taught me this: don't be afraid of sharing your ideas. Don't be afraid of engaging others to voice their ideas. And more importantly, don't presume who is and who is not a creator -- because we all are.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jul 15th 2009 9:00pm
from the focusing-on-true-customers dept
"People downloading my stories from the big torrent sites were never going to buy them anyway. It's no money out of my pocket."Following that, he pointed out that he has sometimes downloaded his own books from torrent sites because it was easier than scanning the work himself, if he didn't already have a digital copy of it. Stackpole is taking exactly the right attitude on all of this. First, he's embracing new technologies and new distribution channels, rather than ignoring them (or worse) complaining about them. Second, he recognizes that he needs to focus on his real customers (those actually willing to spend money on things) and that he needs to provide them with real value that they'll actually pay for. Finally, he recognizes that there's little benefit in caring about those who get the works by unauthorized means, since there's a pretty strong chance that they were never going to pay for anything anyway. What does complaining about them or trying to stop them really do -- other than distract from providing good value for your true fans?
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Apr 29th 2009 10:58am
the pirate bay