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If it’s Tuesday. . .

This weekend was my first vacation in a long time. Three days without trying to write, edit, read slush, etc. What I quickly discovered was that I needed the time off–badly. Even when I’ve supposedly taken time off the last few years, I’ve always had the laptop with me and that means I still tried to work some. This weekend, which was devoted to all things family at my son’s university, had none of that. It was great. The problem is, I came home exhausted, spent all day yesterday making a very small inroad into the stack of stuff on my desk and now my brain isn’t working. I think it is still in bed. Maybe that’s why my head is echoing so badly. So, the post I’d planned on for today will wait until next week because I have to be able to think to finish it. Instead, I thought I’d post links to a several articles of interest.

1. Random House’s e-book price increase for libraries. Here are two articles concerning whether libraries are or are not boycotting RH after the publisher’s exorbitant price increases. The first is about a group of libraries that are boycotting RH and the second casts doubt on whether there is a large-spread boycott.

I tend to agree more with the second article. Libraries will be cutting back on the number of RH e-books they order, but they won’t boycott. The reason is simple. It is important to remember that library patrons don’t know how much their local library has to pay for a book, be it digital or hard copy. All they care about is that they are able to check the book out. This is becoming especially important for those patrons with e-book readers. So, in order to keep their patrons satisfied, libraries will continue ordering from RH, if at lower numbers. After all, these same libraries are still having to explain to their patrons that they have nothing to do with why the patrons can’t check out e-books from Penguin, et al–the other members of the Big Six that refuse to release their e-books to libraries.

2. Hatchette on DRM

This is probably the one story I had to read several times, and from several different sources, to make sense of. The basic issue came when Maja Thomas of Hatchette called DRM a “speedbump” that doesn’t prevent e-book piracy.  Thomas went on to say: There’s a misconception that somehow the digital format of books has made piracy increase, or become logarithmically more serious. But piracy was always very easy to do, because scanning a physical copy of a book [takes] a matter of minutes. A physical book doesn’t have DRM on it.

As I read this, I was nodding, even smiling a bit, because someone at a legacy publisher was finally getting it. Could it be that Hatchette was coming to its senses? Had a cold front finally hit Hell? The short answer is a resounding “NO”.

From Hatchette CEO, Tim Hely Hutchinson: DRM (Digital Rights Management encryption, on which we insist) divides opinion. Our view is that the advantages greatly outweigh any perceived disadvantages. While DRM cannot prevent file-sharing by the most determined pirates it can and does act as a brake on the casual sharing of files and, in the overwhelming majority of cases, it works in the background without causing problems for anyone.

First off, he only sees “perceived disadvantages”. I guess I just “perceive” a problem in trying to buy an e-book from Amazon and then read it on a Nook, or vice versa. Or I just “perceive” it as a problem when I lose my Adobe Digital Editions account and can no longer legally read those DRMed titles on any reader or computer.

Second, he seems to think it is only the “most determined pirates” who are out there breaking DRM. I have issues with that statement on two levels. First, the fact he is calling everyone who breaks DRM pirates. That implies, at least to me, intent to illegally distribute a title after DRM has been broken. Now, unless you include reading a title on a different type of device, also owned by you, as piracy, then no. Most people breaking DRM are doing so in order to make viable backups of their e-books that they know they will be able to read in years to come, no matter what sort of device they own at the time. My other issue with this is that it doesn’t take a lot of determination to break DRM. Less than two minutes of googling will take you to sites with step-by-step directions or to a site where you can download plug-ins for Calibre to do it for you. It isn’t hard to find or do.

So, there is no change in policy at Hatchette and, at least for the moment, DRM is going strong among legacy publishers.

3. Department of Justice’s investigation into Apple and 5 of the Big 6 for price fixing.

Yes, I’m still smiling over this. After two years of waiting for someone in the legal system to realize exactly what Agency Pricing is, the DoJ finally seemed to be stepping forward. The news coming out about the investigation has been generally sparse and comments are usually from unnamed “persons” close to the investigation. In other words, the news may be reliable or it may not. Only time will tell.

Reuters has reported that a settlement may be reached between DoJ, Apple and at least some of the publishers in the upcoming weeks. Possible outcomes could include Apple no longer being able to force publishers to agree not to price their e-books lower at other outlets than they do at Apple. It could also shift pricing responsibilities from the publishers to retailers. In other words, it could return e-book pricing to the “wholesale model” that had been in effect prior to Apple’s entry into the market and the advent of Agency Pricing.

If this happens, it is also possible that the results will trickle down to small presses and self-published authors. Part of the contracts we agree to with Amazon, B&N, etc., when we put our e-books up for sale through them is that we will not offer our titles for less anywhere else. In other words, we are agreeing to our own form of Agency Pricing. It will be interesting to see if there will be a trickle down effect from the retailers with regard to those enrolled in the KDP, PubIt and similar programs. I doubt that there will be. However, it is something we will have to keep our eye on.

Okay, I’m off to find another cup — or six — of coffee. Then I must finish the final edits on Nocturnal Haunts. Then I have digital proofs to check before I approve ConFur (a short story in the ConVent universe by Kate Paulk), First Blood (a short story by Sarah Hoyt, writing as Sarah Marques, in her Vampire Musketeers universe), Pinked Djinn and Candy-Blossom (short stories by Dave Freer) for publication. Then it’s on to checking the digital proofs for Scytheman, book two in Chris McMahon’s trilogy begun with The Calvanni. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

15 Comments
  1. ppaulshoward #

    I’m looking forward to “First Blood”. I just finished the first of Sarah’s Vampire Musketeers books and it was a good read.

    Speaking of DRM, I purchased _Sword & Blood_ at the Kindle store and can now read it on the ColorNook. [Wink]

    April 3, 2012
    • First Blood should be in NRP’s webstore late tomorrow and on Amazon and BN shortly after that. And, GASP, however did you get a kindle file on your Nook Color?

      April 3, 2012
      • ppaulshoward #

        I removed the DRM from the Kindle file and sent the de-DRMed Kindle file through Calibre to convert it to epub. Very easy when you found the right software. [Wink]

        April 3, 2012
  2. masgramondou #

    Minor point of correction. Tim HH is not CEO of Hachette Group, just Hachette UK.

    More interestingly he makes an attempt to justify publishers in his letter to authors where the DRM comment came from ( http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2012/hachettes-uk-group-ceo-reflects-on-state-of-the-industry-prospects-are-exceptional/ ):

    Self-Publishing: When people talk about self-publishing nowadays they generally mean by means of digital distribution. Now that communication with readers everywhere is possible and anyone can distribute their work over the internet, do authors need publishers? Of course, you would expect me to say that they do but I should like to take a few lines to explain why now – perhaps more than ever – we hope and believe authors need publishers. This is actually not a backward-looking defense of the status quo, but more a wake-up call for us, to make sure that we really do add value.

    Publishers are:

    Curators: We find and nurture talent. We identify authors and books that will stand out in the market place, separating the remarkable from the rest.

    Investors: In the form of advances, we allow authors the time and resources to research and write.

    Editors: We invest continuously in the tools and people that mean you get the best and most creative advice about your work and in support of the publication of your book.

    Marketers: We generate and spread excitement about your book.

    Sales and Distribution Specialists: We ensure the widest possible readership for your book in all formats, in all territories where you grant us rights.

    Copyright Defenders: We protect your intellectual property through strict anti-piracy measures and territorial controls.

    I hope your individual publisher is all the above and more: that you know your value to us and that we are regularly able to demonstrate our value to you; that you feel supported by your editor and others in your publishing company and that communication is open and transparent.

    I think he sums up the theoretical roles of a publisher just fine. Unfortunately I don’t think current publishers actually perform any of those roles satisfactorily today for the majority of authors. Thinking back to recent posts here, it seems to me that:
    – Curation could best be described as “Censoring”,
    – Investing looks like a broker flogging Enron shares,
    – Editing is little more that running the document through a spell checker,
    – Marketing is practically non-existent,
    – Sales & Distribution is hardly better
    – Copyright Defending tends to involve the publisher grabbing additional rights from the author without any additional compensation

    In other words, it actually makes sense for most authors to eschew major publishers

    April 3, 2012
    • Thanks for the correction and the link. I was really brain dead this morning when I was trying to put the post together. And you’re right. It does make sense for most authors to eschew major publishers. The problem is that the publishers haven’t figured that out yet.

      April 3, 2012
  3. If Amazon follows the DOJ/Apple et al in dropping the requirement to not sell for less elsewhere, that would clear up at least one problem between Baen and Amazon. It would be great to get the Baen writers’ ebooks out in front of a bigger potential audience.

    April 3, 2012
    • Pam, that may be right, but I have a feeling there’s a lot more to it than just that. But I would love to see the Baen authors getting more exposure with their e-books.

      April 3, 2012
      • Yes, I got the impression there were several issues, but the pricing of Baen’s monthly webscription bundle undercutting the desire price of individual new releases was the one that I heard mentioned.

        April 3, 2012
        • I’m obviously not Toni, but I don’t know that a bundle would be an issue. It’s sort of an apples and oranges issue. The bundle is different from the individual books. But that’s just my thought on the issue. I’ve heard several different reasons, none of them coming from those who really know what’s going on behind the scenes.

          April 4, 2012
  4. ppaulshoward #

    Amanda, you know that Nocturnal Haunts is up on Amazon.com not not up on Naked Reader. [Wink]

    April 3, 2012
    • ppaulshoward #

      Grumble Grumble

      There should be an edit.

      I meant to say “is up on Amazon.com *but* not up on Naked Reader”.

      April 3, 2012
    • Paul, I do. The problem was a baker’s dozen tornadoes that whipped through the area this afternoon and the flood that hit part of my house. Haunts, as well as First Blood, ConFur (yes, a short story in Kate’s ConVent universe) as well as two of Dave’s short stories will be up at the NRP site tomorrow afternoon.

      April 3, 2012
      • ppaulshoward #

        OOPS!

        I heard about that in Sarah’s Facebook and I think it was before I posted about the problem here. [Very Very Big Embarrassed Grin]

        April 3, 2012
        • No problem, Paul. I really had planned to have everything up today. But Mother Nature had other ideas. 😉

          April 3, 2012
          • TXRed #

            She does have a bad habit of that, doesn’t she?

            April 4, 2012

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