Re: Guest Post - Amazon

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Oh, how embarassing, I never finished my thought. The link between the first quotation and the second was supposed to be, "gosh, I can't imagine why being pushy and lying to people would work better for you, Mr. UMC white guy, than it would for some people." Which is, to be fair, part of the point of that essay.

But, mostly, I just appreciated the trolling in the first one:

It used to be that if you were OK with people in Podunk having inferior access to books than people in Brooklyn, you were just a realist about the difficulties of making and shipping physical stuff. Now if you're OK with that, you're kind of an asshole. In the twenty-first century, not being able to correctly stock or distribute a product whose main ingredient is information suggests a degree of technical and managerial incompetence indistinguishable from active malice.
[I]t's worth noting some scenarios Amazon's critics aren't afraid of: They aren't afraid that books will become less accessible. They aren't afraid that there will be fewer readers. They aren't afraid that fewer books will be published.

He's got that tone worked out to a T.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 9:06 AM
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(Those two quotations are not directly juxtaposed in his essay, I had meant to highlight them as two independent examples of quality trolling).


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 9:07 AM
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It used to be that if you were okay with antibiotics not yet being invented, you were a realist. Now, if you're okay with not giving your child penicillin for an infected tooth, you're in danger for being arrested for child abuse. Who can say.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 9:14 AM
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We must all cultivate our own bookstores.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 9:52 AM
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Nick, it's time for an intervention. You are literally the last person on Earth who still reads Clay Shirkey.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 10:29 AM
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I am pro-Amazon generally. As of the eighties even cities like Baltimore did not have a good big bookstore. Borders and then Amazon changed that.

They are something of a monopoly so I think one needs to be skeptical about what they are doing now.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 10:29 AM
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I'm also pro-Amazon. Yes, I wish they had better labor practices, and Jeff Bezos seems like kind of a dick. But Amazon Web Services is the best thing since sliced bread.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 10:48 AM
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I'm skeptical, wouldn't the real Clay Shirky be arguing that the key to Amazon's future is to stop selling old fashioned luddite fare like books and switch to marketing MOOCS?


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 10:52 AM
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You are literally the last person on Earth who still reads Clay Shirkey.

Second to last, Brad DeLong still reads him (though Brad reads everything so I'm not sure that counts). Though, honestly, when he comments at Crooked Timber, I often think he has a useful point to make.

Also, as long as this is the thread for me sticking with things longer than is sane, I've been cautiously optimistic about Vox, but I have to say that the current re-design of their home page may drive me away. Until they go to something less cluttered, easier to read, and more navigable, I'm not going to read them.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 11:17 AM
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We must all cultivate our own bookstores.

Yes, note his comment about self-publishing.

Packer mocks self-published authors, noting that half of them earn less than $500 a year, without noting that the average payout for anyone sending a manuscript to a traditional publishing house is $0.

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 11:18 AM
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That can't possibly be right. How can I accept an argument from somebody who doesn't know the difference between an average and the median or mode?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 11:21 AM
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I'm sure I'm atypical, but these ebook pricing disputes affect me not at all. When I bought a Kindle, I also reactivated my library membership. Over three years, I've paid for maybe three or four ebooks and borrowed dozens from the library. You can do this from the comfort of your couch, roughly as easily as buying books on Amazon. Maybe this isn't the case outside of large urban library systems?


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 11:29 AM
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The Shirky piece is a mess. It appears to have swallowed the July 29 Amazon press release hook, line and sinker.

Shirky sounds as though he thinks the argument is over whether there should be price points set for e-books at all, as though publishers might want to price e-books at $23.99 or something. In fact, the argument is over nothing more than whether to price them at $9.99 (Amazon's position) or $14.99 (publishers).

The best response I've seen to Amazon's entirely disingenous press release is the somewhat lengthy "What Amazon Didn't Say in Its Blog Post about Hachette". Central to Amazon's argument is that e-books priced at $9.99 sell 74% more copies than those priced at $14.99. But (a) that's in the aggregate: it does not mean that *every* book with the lower price will sell 74% more copies. No doubt bestsellers sell 200% more, while your lowly plain vanilla author sees no increase whatsoever, and therefore takes a loss at the lower price. And (b) if $9.99 leads to a 74% increase, why not reduce the price to $7.99? Why not $5.99? You gotta do the math here. What happens if the price is, say, $12.99?

Read that whole post. It starts off snotty in the extreme, but page 2 digs into the numbers.

Why? My guess is that the $9.99 price point was picked by Amazon for this public salvo because Amazon has identified $9.99 as the pain point for would-be retailing competitors. I suspect that $9.99 is the price point that delivers maximum benefit to Amazon's goal of having all the market share while still leaving some money on the table for profit.
Any more leaves too much incentive for competition and any less unnecessarily reduces profit.

This isn't about Amazon lurving readers so much it'll go to the mat for them against big publishing. It's about Amazon controlling market share.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 11:31 AM
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Maybe the payout is negative for some people!


Posted by: torrey pine | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 11:31 AM
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14 to 11.


Posted by: torrey pine | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 11:32 AM
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11: The median is a kind of average. It's also possible the number of manuscripts is so large that the mean is neglibly close to zero.


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 11:33 AM
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I don't have a clear conscious opinion about how evil I think Amazon is, but I sure do order a lot of stuff from them. I also buy books from physical bookstores pretty often. I kind of have a book-buying problem, really.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 11:35 AM
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17: But what about me? Do you think I am evil?


Posted by: Opinionated Russian Book-Sharing Web Site | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 11:42 AM
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Further to 11: A more technically correct claim (probably, I don't have the data) is that 99% of manuscripts earn $0, which is much stronger than his fuzzy claim about averages.


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 11:45 AM
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I've paid for maybe three or four ebooks and borrowed dozens from the library. You can do this from the comfort of your couch, roughly as easily as buying books on Amazon.

The library systems you've used must be doing a lot right if this has been your experience. I've never worked in a public library, or on the circulating books side of any library, but have heard lots of stories about how difficult it can be to (show someone how to) check out an ebook from a library. I think the level of difficulty goes up a lot if you're trying to check out to a reader that is not a Kindle, Nook, or something running Adobe Digital Editions natively.

I can think of a couple of advantages big systems would have: purchasing power (more likely to find an ebook you want to check out) and somewhat better websites*. There aren't many ebook vendors for public libraries, so at some point in the checkout process you're probably dealing with the same vendor you would be if you were in another library system, but libraries with more resources for the web can wrap that last step in the process in more helpful ways than whatever the vendor provides as a default.

*Better than other library websites. Probably not great as a website in general. It seems to be the nature of library websites to be not that great**, though they're all getting better.

**I say this as someone who previously worked on library website redesign stuff.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 11:52 AM
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Even when it works, a library ebook isn't a perfect substitute for a personal ebook any more than a library hard copy is a substitute for a personal hard copy.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 12:01 PM
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at some point in the checkout process you're probably dealing with the same vendor you would be if you were in another library system

Yes. Both NYC and SF use Overdrive for the actual ebook fulfillment. SF also offers something called Axis 360, but it doesn't seem much different.

It seems to be the nature of library websites to be not that great

Also yes. SF's site just lost my (non-ebook) list of books to read. I shan't see that lust again, I'm sure of it.


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 12:03 PM
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My public library system uses Overdrive for ebook lending, and it generally works well. Some of the books are only available in Adobe's ePub format, but most are also available in Kindle format, which is how I read them on my phone.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 12:04 PM
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I shan't see that lust again, I'm sure of it.

Middle age is taking us all.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 12:08 PM
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21: True enough, but probably 90% of book purchases could beneficially be replaced with library loans.

P.S. Don't tell Halford but if you turn off you Kindle WiFi, ebook loans are effectively unlimited-time.


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 12:08 PM
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And how do you get new books on?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 12:14 PM
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There is a tradeoff between getting new books and keeping old ones. But you don't have to stress out about finishing every book with two or three weeks, which is what I've always disliked about library borrowing.


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 12:26 PM
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I don't need t explained to me, but I do find it ridiculous that a library has to pay per "pretend copy" and that we have to pretend there's a finite number of library ebooks and queue up for them.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 12:58 PM
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Also 25.ps is a game-changer.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 1:02 PM
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Gah. Amazon is a monopsony. It's not a good thing.

In the used book realm, every used book seller I know is backing away from them. They support far too many disgusting behaviors, many of which are driving the used book market into the ground. Phantom sellers abound: they have no books, but they'll sell you someone else's at an inflated price.

If you're only interested in in-print books, Amazon is fine. Otherwise no. Out.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 1:04 PM
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28: I don't disagree that it's ridiculous but all licensing of digital goods is equally ridiculous.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 1:26 PM
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I have only bough books for my kindle. I'm mildly embarrassed by this; I should really figure out the library thing. On the other hand, when I went to their Kindle loan page right up top were a bunch of right wing fluff books. On the other other hand, the site's watermark made it look like Ben Carson's book was called "GIF HANDS".


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 1:28 PM
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Academic libraries also sometimes do ebook lending with services like Overdrive. The one I used to work for did, but it can be easy to miss since most academic library ebook stuff is nightmare interfaces requiring a browser and a more or less constant internet connection while reading.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 1:39 PM
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re: 31

I don't want to revive old arguments, and I'm generally sympathetic to complaints about the behaviour of rights-holders and no fan of RIAA et al, but what exactly _are_ people who produce content supposed to do to make money from digitally delivered stuff?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 1:40 PM
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OT: There's a People's Climate March on Sept. 21 in Manhattan. I don't know why the head image showing there is an anime thing, but whatever.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 1:42 PM
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I do find it ridiculous that a library has to pay per "pretend copy" and that we have to pretend there's a finite number of library ebooks and queue up for them

There is a name for that -- FARTS. It stands for Forced ARTificial Scarcity.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 1:45 PM
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34: Don't be silly, ttaM, it's not about the authors, aka content providers, it's about the readers!

Ahem.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 1:46 PM
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I don't want to revive old arguments, and I'm generally sympathetic to complaints about the behaviour of rights-holders and no fan of RIAA et al, but what exactly _are_ people who produce content supposed to do to make money from digitally delivered stuff?

Sell T-shirts and go on tour! The thing that involves actually doing work, you have to do as a loss leader for merchandising.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 1:49 PM
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In the future, the human race will self-segregate into two groups: the extroverts, who spend all of their time selling each other T-shirts, and the introverts, who will sew the T-shirts in their own homes for 3 cents an hour. The only intersection of these two worlds will occur through the Gawker media empire.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 1:55 PM
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Libraries are already at odds with content producers, independent of digital FARTS.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 1:56 PM
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34: besides make pretend that a non-scarce good is scarce? Dunno! Maybe nothing? It is definitely a hard and interesting argument which has gotten plenty contentious here in the past, but that's not really what I'm talking about; if you think the library thing where they have to pretend to have a limited number of copies of an ebook is ridiculous, then you think digital licensing is ridiculous per se. That doesn't seem so controversial, to me?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 1:57 PM
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The library here just got a new, dedicated funding stream. They are ridiculously helpful. Also, they redid the men's room in the main library. They fixed it up and didn't put back the sign saying that you can't give yourself a bath in the sink.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 1:59 PM
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41: no, somehow the library heightens the farce for me in a way that Amazon ebook pricing doesn't.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 2:00 PM
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what exactly _are_ people who produce content supposed to do to make money from digitally delivered stuff?

I think the sad fact is that - with or without strong IP restrictions - for the vast majority of content producers, creating digitally delivered stuff just isn't going to be particularly lucrative. There is just too much content out there chasing a limited number of eyeballs.

The loss leader idea seems implausible, but it does seem to work to a certain extent. You won't necessarily make a living selling T-shirts, but you might by selling your time for consulting gigs and professional services.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 2:05 PM
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They fixed it up and didn't put back the sign saying that you can't give yourself a bath in the sink.

WOO-HOO!!!! FREE BATHS!!!!


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 2:07 PM
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Personally I think everybody working on a book that seems like it might be pretty okay should get a check from the government, but really it is not relevant to what I was trying to say.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 2:08 PM
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That's how I get paid for what I right, basically.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 2:09 PM
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||

Texting slang question.

Does PLO mean Peace, love, out or, Pleas Leave Ok?

A response to a text sent a couple of weeks ago, and I'm not sure how to respond.

|>


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 2:09 PM
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I'm not even opposed to electronic licensing. I just don't see how ebooks cost something from 75% to 125% of the cost of a paperback with the same content and assume it involves fraud of some type or another.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 2:10 PM
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Amazon doesn't pretend that they have a limited number of copies of ebooks, they just charge almost-infinitely more than the marginal cost of a copy. Since nearly every successful company nearly always charges more than their marginal costs, this doesn't seem particularly strange to the consumer, even though it would make an Econ 101 student's head explode.


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 2:11 PM
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Libraries are already at odds with content producers,

This is unfortunate, given how much content producers owe to libraries. Or does all the research that content producers rely upon just magically spring from the free market, independent of public infrastructure to supports it?


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 2:12 PM
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What's the fiction author's equivalent of touring and T-shirt sales?


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 2:14 PM
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48: I never heard of the latter.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 2:15 PM
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does all the research that content producers rely upon just magically spring from the free market, independent of public infrastructure to supports it?

Of course it does!


Posted by: Opinionated Libertarian Dude | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 2:16 PM
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48: "I don't know what u mean by PLO." Done. (So not Palistinian Liberation Organization.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 2:17 PM
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What's the fiction author's equivalent of touring and T-shirt sales?

Movie rights.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 2:20 PM
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if you think the library thing where they have to pretend to have a limited number of copies of an ebook is ridiculous, then you think digital licensing is ridiculous per se.

I don't think one follows from the other. I might think that, say, fictional scarcity is absurd, and that treating e-books as if there is a single copy [in the library context] is daft, but be OK with licensing on a different model. Lots of stuff that we pay [as a library] to license, for example, is licensed on an 'authenticated members of the institution only' basis, say, but with no numerical limit on how many that might be. Or you could imagine licensing on a broadcast type model, or any number of other models. Some of which might not involve renumeration, and some of which might.

As it happens, I think many of the existing models for digital licensing are stupid or counter-productive, but that doesn't mean I think that it's logically impossible, or even practically impossible, to devise fair licenses for particular content.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 2:21 PM
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There's different dynamics to the libraries vs. Amazon discussion and the libraries vs. publishers discussions.* Libraries can buy print books from Amazon and put them in the circulating collection. They can't do that with Kindle purchases. Amazon doesn't maintain the fiction that they only have a limited number of Kindle ebooks because, aside from the extremely limited lend program, pretty much every interaction you have with their books is an individual purchase, and you're never offered a chance to buy an ebook in a way that results in ownership.

It's probably needlessly oppositional to use 'vs.' but I'm too lazy to come up with a substitute.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 2:22 PM
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55: that's really rational. It's just that I asked her about the placed we both used to work at, and I think she might be afraid for her job.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 2:22 PM
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The drive to be creative seems to so outstrip the available eyeballs that I agree - the only "compensate the creators" schemes are 1. Star system with shitty curating, or 2. Universal basic income. UBI is better but oh well.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 2:25 PM
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I have mixed feelings about Amazon. Yes, they make books (and of course all sorts of other stuff) more widely available than they ever were, and that's a good thing.

It's the monopsony thing that bothers me. They are in a pretty commanding position to dictate pricing, and while that's great for consumers at the moment, it's also potentially bad for authors. On the other hand if the publishers win and ebooks cost $5 more, how much of that is going to go to the authors?

In the long run though, we are either going to have Walt's dystopia of 39, or K. W. Jeter's dystopia from his book "Noir" where DRM violations are punished by death. Which of these dystopian outcomes we get has essentially zero to do with the current struggle between Amazon and the publishers.
Unless we are very lucky one or the other will happen no matter which behemoth wins.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 2:34 PM
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12: " Maybe this isn't the case outside of large urban library systems?"

It really isn't. Our library here in Fuck Smith does let us borrow books via Kindle and such, but (1) the number of e-titles our library owns is ridiculously small and (2) worse, you cannot search by author or title, only by genre (so if I want to borrow, say, the new Nancy Kress book, I am forced to wade through all 514 SF novels they own, checking to see if they own that specific novel, which (spoilers) they aren't going to, because they only ever buy blockbuster crap.

There's a much better library up in Fayetteville. I'm thinking of buying into it. $50/year, which would be worth it for the better e-book system alone.


Posted by: delagar | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 2:39 PM
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It's odd that the Amazon v. Hatchette thing has turned into The Battle for the Future of Books, since it's really no different than Time Warner v. Fox or DirectTV v. Viacom, i.e., a knife fight between middlemen. Fuck 'em both.


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 2:47 PM
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Anybody know what Overdrive's business model looks like? One guesses it would be based on the number of library members, which would make it more expensive for larger systems.


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 2:49 PM
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That's an interesting model.... people pay $X a month to be members of an organization - call it "Libraryflix", then Libraryflix negotiates with Amazon/authors/publishers for the rights to distribute books books. Every month, Amazon/authors/publishers get paid $X * (number of their books downloaded/total number of books downloaded) - (whatever Libraryflix's cut is).


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 2:52 PM
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65 was not responding to 64. I don't know anything about Overdrive.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 2:53 PM
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65 would be awesome. And some sort of centralized collection system so that everyone is a part of it, automatically, by virtue of paying their taxes.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 2:56 PM
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Maybe they could even have branches where they keep some hard copies of books on hand.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 2:58 PM
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And other branches where you can send your kid to get schooled.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 3:02 PM
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The could take care of the roads, while they are at it.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 3:15 PM
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And everybody gets a share.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 3:18 PM
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And a pony.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 3:20 PM
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God, fuck Shirky so much. That masculine-woman thing works in two kinds of environments: (1) Places where women exist in powerful roles already and people are used to it, and (2) Places where no one has ever met a professional woman before and so categorize the woman as a man. Most workplaces are in the middle.

If I hear one more story about women's requests for leave, tenure, or research funding being denied on account of them being uppity bitches who don't play mommy at work, I will barf.


Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 3:22 PM
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Why settle for a pony? Why can't we have unicorns?


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 3:24 PM
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34: besides make pretend that a non-scarce good is scarce? [...] if you think the library thing where they have to pretend to have a limited number of copies of an ebook is ridiculous, then you think digital licensing is ridiculous per se.

But it is no more ridiculous than a library which has a perfectly good photocopier pretending it only has one copy of any given book.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 3:34 PM
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What's the fiction author's equivalent of touring and T-shirt sales?

From what I know it usually involves teaching composition. At least that seems to be the general trend among people who aren't massive bestsellers, churning out genre fiction at a rate of a novel or two a year, working some normal day job, or just independently wealthy/independently very poor. You can make a decent living as a novelist, if lucky/good, but it's usually not from the novels themselves as much as the bit where you're a successful novelist and people hire you to teach writing as a result. I guess that actually makes novels almost exactly the equivalent of albums, only with a bigger gap than with live/recorded music.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 3:38 PM
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75: Libraries charge at least 10 cents a page for copying. That comes out to about the price of a hardcover book.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 4:00 PM
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Libraries provide photocopiers precisely because they only have a limited number of copies of each print item.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 4:07 PM
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People rarely photocopy ebooks.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 4:09 PM
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There are also, quite substantial overheads on the photocopying side. Partly because of copyright law, which is, arguably on the stupid side. Partly because students break books, photocopying them.

We [the library I work for] have various (cheap) scan-on-demand services for users, now. Which can be used on non-fragile/non-special stuff.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 4:13 PM
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Plus, specifically re: 75 and 77

The cost of someone's time to photocopy a book is going to be getting pretty close to the cost of the book, too. Students don't cost their own time, but institutions have to.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 4:14 PM
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79: Rarely.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 4:15 PM
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And robotic devices aren't a solution. Most robotic scanners are either pretty damned expensive and relatively slow [if they even work at all well], or DIY things.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 4:15 PM
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81: Graduate students.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 4:19 PM
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In the late 90s, judging by the collection a history grad student I knew amassed, it was cost effective to check out a hardcover academic history book that was priced pretty high for the individual market*, go to one of the many copy places that charged ~3.5 cents/page for double-sided copies**, and then have the resulting pages bound like one would a course reader.

*At least $35, not adjusted for inflation. "Library" pricing might put a book up over $75.

**Copying facing pages, so 4 pages per sheet of paper. Which cuts down on both paper and time-to-copy.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 4:22 PM
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76 I guess that actually makes novels almost exactly the equivalent of albums

A much much closer equivalent to academia in general, no?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 4:24 PM
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re: 85

Yeah. Some academic hardbacks are stupidly expensive, and I've photocopied substantial amounts myself as a grad student. For myself, that is.

Institutions can't do the same, though.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 4:24 PM
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My cousin is a novelist. She's done pretty well, as far as getting contracts from good, small houses, getting respect in the literary fiction world, and getting good reviews. I don't think she's ever come close to making enough money off her books to be meaningful; she teaches composition. So, data point there, I suppose?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 4:29 PM
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Institutions can't do the same, though.

Right, and many will enforce pretty strict limits for requests by patrons so they stay on the safe side of fair use. Most also post copyright notices on or near the self-service machines to remind patrons that you shouldn't be copying whole or substantial parts of books, which seem to be widely ignored.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 4:31 PM
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87: You can get a PDF of nearly any technical text on the web, but it's really hard to find unless you know somebody who can read Chinese. They steal everything.


Posted by: Some guy | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 4:34 PM
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89: Also the notice about not testing if your engagement ring is real by seeing if you can scratch the glass on the copier.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 4:35 PM
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I would call teaching composition closer to "waiting tables by day" than "selling t-shirts." I.e., it's a day job, not a monetization strategy.


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 4:38 PM
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93

What if you got the teaching job because of what you published?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 4:43 PM
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92 -- depends heaps on the job doesn't it? One thing if it's teaching "essays for engineers", another if it's "postgraduate creative writing".


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 4:45 PM
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I don't know about freshman composition, but there does seem to be a whole archipelago of MFA programs where published writers have a chance at getting nice gigs. Although my vague impression is that these are usually temporary. I suppose you can just jump constantly from one to another if you've mastered the system.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 4:51 PM
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It's closer to finding a patron than merch/touring/taking commissions, is all in saying.


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 4:52 PM
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What if you make your t-shirt a required text?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 4:53 PM
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Adjunct teaching at that level is pretty hellish, is my impression, unless you're like, Eleanor Catton.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 4:54 PM
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Writing novels is just something that is unlikely to make someone very much money. That was true before digital distribution existed, and its true today.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 5:02 PM
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One of the bartenders dropped a shift to teach an Intro Comp (or some English class of some kind).


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 5:02 PM
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Bookstores do furnish a room.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 5:08 PM
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My cousin likes her teaching pretty well, I think, although it is definitely 100% a way to let her keep writing fiction, as opposed to something she would do otherwise. She definitely does get to teach some funkier upper division courses; it isn't all into comp or whatever. Also, she quite often gets grants to go do writers' retreat things (like Iowa but not (always) Iowa) so she doesn't have to teach for several months to a year or so.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 5:14 PM
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My impression was that if you can get a permanent gig it's not too bad, but the temporary/part time work seems pretty evil. (Like, better than waiting tables or whatever, but unpleasant in the way all exploitative academic jobs are.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 5:31 PM
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Although this is based on a reasonably dim view of a pretty poor department, so other places may be very different.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 5:32 PM
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Patronage is as good a way to describe teaching appointments and writer-in-residence stuff as anything else. Essentially they're using the actual literature as a kind of display to get the work that actually pays, whether it's 'here have some money', teaching, actual lucrative writing jobs (which could be anything from writing for movies and television to, on the seedier side, public relations/ad copy level stuff.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 5:38 PM
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48: Plox?


Posted by: Todd | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 5:55 PM
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Luckily there were people in the bar who wanted to talk to me because you guys really dropped the ball.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 7:11 PM
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76. My impression as an SF reader is that there are a fair number of authors who successfully promote their works on the web. Charlie Stross, John Scalzi and Cory Doctorow come to mind, and Hugh Howey ("Wool" et al.) has been a well-known proponent of independent publishing. There are several comparable writers in the "Military SF" sub-genre who do web-based promotional as well.

SF has a pre-existing non-publisher promotional track, which is to attend some of the many SF conventions. Web-based promotion is newer but similar.

I don't know if other genres have anything like that, though.

Some SF writers do the "Writers' Workshop" teaching path too, but it's not as big a deal. A few famous authors like Crowley, Delany, and Haldeman have university positions, but I don't think that's all that common.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 7:59 PM
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@13 It's called limit pricing, essentially pricing at the highest point that is still low enough to discourage a new competitor from entering the market. I wouldn't mind Amazon having such a cut throat attitude toward competitors if it didn't approach its lower level employees the same way. As for the Shirky article, even where I agreed with him I still felt his position was somewhere between concern trolling and noblesse oblige.


Posted by: Middle Aged Man | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 8:27 PM
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We bought the poster at the David Grisman concert tonight. I'll probably buy a CD or two. As the Dawg himself pointed out, virtually every financial adviser says you should put some of your money in CDs.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 9:04 PM
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71: And everybody gets a share.

But Yossarian still didn't understand either completely understood how Milo could buy eggs make copies of books in Malta for seven cents apiece and sell them at a profit in Pianosa for five cents $9.99.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09-14-14 9:57 PM
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Volume.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09-15-14 3:14 AM
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63: It's odd that the Amazon v. Hatchette thing has turned into The Battle for the Future of Books, since it's really no different than Time Warner v. Fox or DirectTV v. Viacom, i.e., a knife fight between middlemen. Fuck 'em both.

It's not odd at all that it's turned into that: like it or not, you're never going to be able to do without middlemen, unless you think you're going to acquire books all by yourself (unpossible). The manner of distribution of content is exceedingly important.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-15-14 5:45 PM
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A few famous authors like Crowley, Delany, and Haldeman have university positions

I took a screenwriting class from Crowley. The screenplay I wrote was ambitious shite, and he said that he liked the ambitions while gently leaving open the probability that it was shite. I also wrote a narrated slideshow, an exercize inspired by La Jetée, that would be fun to digitize -- at the time (1996) I designed it in Photoshop but presented it in printouts.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 09-15-14 6:31 PM
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Just for Halford: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/10504690/Eminem-sues-National-over-election-ad

Not even the craziest thing going on in NZ politics at the moment (that would be the Greenwald SPEARGUN revelations) but definitely the funniest.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 09-15-14 8:58 PM
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Just for Halford: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/10504690/Eminem-sues-National-over-election-ad

Not even the craziest thing going on in NZ politics at the moment (that would be the Greenwald SPEARGUN revelations) but definitely the funniest.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 09-15-14 8:58 PM
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like it or not, you're never going to be able to do without middlemen

Maybe "fuck 'em both" implied that I think that, but I do not. I don't think a likely outcome of this dispute is that Amazon forces Hatchette out of business (or vice versa). I think Amazon is trying to establish a new status quo where they'll take a bigger share of the profits. The traditional publishers may find that threatening and/or annoying, but it's not self-evidently an existential issue.


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 09-16-14 8:33 AM
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they'll take a bigger share of the profits

And I haven't dug into the weeds of the negotiations (to the extent they're public), but since the main issue seems to be the price of ebooks, it seems Amazon isn't even trying to get a bigger share of the profits, per se, as arguing that a different pricing scheme will result in more profits for both parties.


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 09-16-14 8:41 AM
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They're trying to get a bigger share of the profits by making themselves the go-to place, the cheapest place, for buying e-books. This isn't happening in a vacuum, as though Amazon and Hachette are the only two parties involved in the sale of e-books. Amazon is trying to push out any competition for such sales.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-16-14 6:32 PM
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To keep beating a dead thread... No doubt, Amazon would be delighted to be a monopoly seller/monopsony buyer of books. It doesn't follow that they want to destroy the traditional publishers, any more than Netflix wants to destroy the traditional film and television studios. The most one could say is they're psychopathically indifferent to the fate of the traditional publishing industry.


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 1:18 PM
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The most one could say is they're psychopathically indifferent to the fate of the traditional publishing industry.

Pretty much, though I'm not sure I'd characterize that as the most one could say, as though it's a minor matter. But this gets into questions about the value of the traditional publishing industry, and i have a feeling you don't see much value in that. This discussion, here, is at an impasse for now.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 1:27 PM
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