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.