Darwinian bookery


We’re doomed. Evolution is an ineluctable process; once it gets started, it’s not just an optional alternative, it becomes unstoppable, short of nuking the planet from orbit (and even then, all it takes is one surviving bacterium for it to begin again). Charlie Stross has noticed that books have crossed the threshold and are now poised for an adaptive radiation.

An epub ebook file is essentially an HTML5 file, encapsulated with descriptive metadata and an optional DRM layer. The latest draft standard includes support for all aspects of HTML5 including JavaScript. Code implodes into text, and it is only a matter of time before we see books that incorporate software for collaborative reading. Not only will your ebook save your bookmarks and annotations; it’ll let you share bookmarks and annotations with other readers. It’s only logical, no? And the next step is to let readers start discussions with one another, with some sort of tagging mechanism to link the discussions to books, or chapters, or individual scenes, or a named character or footnote.

We already share highlighting — I get a little annoyed when I’m reading on my kindle and suddenly there’s a block of text with a dotted underline — other people thought that section worthy of notice and have shared their emphasis with the world.

I’ve also noticed that the books I’ve bought through Amazon suddenly pop up with a ranking and suggestions page when I reach the end. It used to be you’d finish a book and close it satisfyingly and put it back on the shelf…but no, now it yells at you “Did you like me? Buy more of me!”

As Stross points out, the next dreadful steps, since a book has become code, will be the incorporation of malware and agents to sabotage competing books in your library and insert new ads around the place, or even replicate more of the authors’ works. I’ve downloaded some of those cheap or even free books into my epub library, and some of them are so bad that I suspect they are already intrinsically malware.

Our future:

Books are going to be like cockroaches, hiding and breeding in dark corners and keeping you awake at night with their chittering. There’s no need for you to go in search of them: rather, the problem will be how to keep them from overwhelming you.

Doomed, I tells you. I am squinting at my iPad right now. I think it’s plotting to get me.

Comments

  1. says

    Thankfully, the much brouhaha-ed dead of print literature seems to have been greatly exaggerated. I will stick with books that I can put on a shelf, loan to a friend, or throw into a river, as I see fit.

  2. funkyderek says

    My Kindle recently spoiled the ending of a mystery story by skipping to the last page, and for good measure purchased another book by itself. I am monitoring it for further signs of sentience.

  3. says

    I’ve downloaded some of those cheap or even free books into my epub library, and some of them are so bad that I suspect they are already intrinsically malware.

    Gawd yes, this. Lack of funds a while back led me to Baen’s free library, Gutenberg, and other sources of free stuff. Got so bad I ended up writing a shed-load of word-processor macros to reformat them.

    (For the curious, epub files can be opened with a zip-file manager. Combine the htm(l) files therein, reformat, and use Calibre to make a new epub.)

  4. bruceheerssen says

    Alternatively, one can use PDF where possible. Does the Kindle support PDF? My Android Kindle app does.

  5. says

    @Daz #4 – I’ve used Sigil to clean up stuff I’ve downloaded from Gutenberg, and rather like it. I’ll take a look at Calibre.

    The main issues, though, is the fact that most WYSIWYG editors produce crap HTML to begin with, and that the current ePub format requires the use of an outdated, media-poor version of HTML. Going from Word to ePub requires a huge amount of post-processing to make it look good, and most people don’t have the technical skills to do it.

  6. says

    I’m getting this vision of an endless Library, with restless books literally chained to the shelves, always whispering to each other, the whole being presided over by an orangutang.

    Seriously, one’s Kindle annotations get shared with the world? WTF? I made some notes in my most recent book club book, and my wife could see them on the copy she downloaded to another device, but we were assuming that distribution was limited to her Amazon account.

    If I want to share my thoughts with the world, I’ll get a blog and do it deliberately, thank you. And I don’t want to see other people’s random cogitations pop up unasked, either.

  7. says

    Gregory in Seattle

    I edit the source code in Word, (stuff like looking for paragraphs beginning with a lower-case letter: that’s likely a broken paragraph), get rid of all the pre-existing classes etc, and apply my own to fit my css, then paste the source into a new htm document. Then import that into Calibre.

  8. janiceclanfield says

    My Kindle frequently moves around the house when I’m not looking.

    I think it’s trying to drive me insane.

  9. says

    I think that these types of business practices encourage piracy. Why would I want to give my money to companies that seem to love to piss on their users? This is why I still like PDF’s and actual physical books. No shitty software, no DRM crap, no ridiculous adware, and no vendors that treat their userbase like shit.

  10. chigau (違う) says

    So somebody, somewhere underlines something in their kindle and it underlines in yours, too?
    That is so fucked up.

  11. SidBB says

    I get a little annoyed when I’m reading on my kindle and suddenly there’s a block of text with a dotted underline

    You can get rid of that by turning off “Popular Highlights” in the settings.

    @ Eamon Knight (#7):

    I think the personal notes that you type in yourself are only shared with other devices on your account. What the “Popular Highlights” feature does is collect aggregate data on what sections are highlighted most often by other readers and then display it to you. It doesn’t share their personal notes though.

  12. says

    When I read a book, I want my interaction to be with the author or characters, not with other readers. I recently got a Kobo, but I’ll forego reading e-pubs if they’re going to be full of crap I don’t want to deal with.

  13. says

    @12: Indeed. I’ve recently started reading in digital (we have both a Kindle and a Playbook), because much though I love the dead tree format, when you’ve got several *thousand* of them, you start thinking twice about acquiring more. But if they’re going to clutter things up with ads, and getting you to make purchases that you don’t realize you’re making, then fuck ‘em.

    There’s a paradigm-war going on: I think my personal computing devices are *mine* to control the experience thereof — that screen real estate is *my* territory goddamnit, whereas the money-grubbers out in internet-land think it’s more like TV, where *they* control the experience by pushing *their* content onto the screen.

    In reply to someone’s question: yes, Kindle supports PDF.

  14. brizian says

    Kindle and Kobo devices both “support” PDF, but neither do it very well. Likely, your e-reader of choice has a screen that’s roughly 6 or 7 inches diagonal, and your PDF has a size of 8.5″x11″. If you enjoy reading while zoomed way out or scrolling on the extremely-slow-to-refresh e-ink screen, then yes they support PDF*.

    Personally, I don’t believe that ads are going to be a big issue. I’m already paying for the book, there’s no reason for them to switch to an ad-based solution. Even if they did, I would use calibre or some other solution to strip them out, legal or not. I made the switch to digital roughly a year ago and haven’t looked back. The awards my Kobo occasionally gives me for reading are a nice tough as well.

    *Note that reading PDFs on a Kindle/Kobo app on your Android or Apple device is likely to give a better experience than the dedicated e-reader.

  15. moarscienceplz says

    We already share highlighting — I get a little annoyed when I’m reading on my kindle and suddenly there’s a block of text with a dotted underline — other people thought that section worthy of notice and have shared their emphasis with the world.
    I’ve also noticed that the books I’ve bought through Amazon suddenly pop up with a ranking and suggestions page when I reach the end. It used to be you’d finish a book and close it satisfyingly and put it back on the shelf…but no, now it yells at you “Did you like me? Buy more of me!”

    I have no sympathy for you, PZ. My Barnes & Noble Nook ebooks don’t do any of that crap. It’s what you deserve for joining the zombie horde at Amazon. They are just as mindless as Apple fans.

  16. pHred says

    They are sentient and talk about you behind your back. At this point my family has a Nook, an iPad and a Kindle (don’t ask). It is very interesting.

    One thing for sure – I really hate the latest update to the Kindle app!

  17. Kevin Anthoney says

    Can you make and share margin notes in a Kindle? Something like “the butler did it”?

  18. Kevin Anthoney says

    I think it’s plotting to get me

    Nah, that’s just the NSA.

    Or a budding SkyNet.

    The cat’ll get him first.

  19. JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness says

    17
    brizian

    Kindle and Kobo devices both “support” PDF, but neither do it very well.

    The new Kobo Aura 6″ does it really well, as all the reviewers and videos about it shows.

  20. says

    Well if evolution is occurring, we need to get ahead of the curve and ensure that the selection pressures are readability and engaging prose.

  21. says

    @13: You can opt to show or hide popular highlights.

    I find it easy enough to turn off that feature that I don’t feel it needs to be eliminated. I’m not sure why that is so offensive to people.

  22. infraredeyes says

    This program: Calibre can be used to convert pdf files into e-book formats; they are much easier to read if you do that. It also allows you to run your Kindle or whatever in offline mode all the time. My Kindle has never been ‘activated’ over wifi, and remains in airplane mode permanently. I download purchased books to my laptop and transfer them via USB. It’s a little bit more work than operating wirelessly, but it eliminates the Big Brother effect and also extends the time between battery charges.

  23. The Mellow Monkey: Non-Hypothetical says

    infraredeyes @ 28

    This program: Calibre can be used to convert pdf files into e-book formats; they are much easier to read if you do that.

    Oh geez, thank you for this. I have Calibre and I’ve used it for converting epubs to pdf, but hadn’t made the obvious connection that I could convert the other way as well.

  24. says

    PZ:

    We already share highlighting — I get a little annoyed when I’m reading on my kindle and suddenly there’s a block of text with a dotted underline — other people thought that section worthy of notice and have shared their emphasis with the world.

    I’ve also noticed that the books I’ve bought through Amazon suddenly pop up with a ranking and suggestions page when I reach the end. It used to be you’d finish a book and close it satisfyingly and put it back on the shelf…but no, now it yells at you “Did you like me? Buy more of me!”

    Huh. My Nook doesn’t do any of that. The only highlights/bookmarks/annotations I see are ones I put there myself. No ratings/suggestions stuff, either. I’m glad I held out on getting a tablet.

    Books can chitter and breed all they like. I have over a thousand paper books in my house, and am amassing a healthy collection of e-books. I find books to be comforting furniture.

  25. anuran says

    We reached capacity for tree-cadaver books some time back. There are no more walls to put bookcases against. If a volume comes in, another has to leave, and since we’ve culled mercilessly over the years this is increasingly difficult. The ereaders have let us indulge our addiction without taking up more space.

  26. Ichthyic says

    I concluded similarly to Isaac @ 12.

    current ebook business practices ENCOURAGE piracy, just so you can strip out all the DRM and distribution crap.

    so, so tired of publishers deciding what the best profit margin model will be, instead of what the best practical model for consumers will be.

    this is the main reason I continue to support piracy as an underground effort. Until publishers change their business models to be more consumer friendly, I say grab yer cutlass and raise the skull and crossbones!

  27. Ichthyic says

    I’m not sure why that is so offensive to people.

    …so the obvious “feels invasive” vibe that was expressed in the OP just went sailing right on by eh?

    interesting.

  28. says

    Ichthyic:

    current ebook business practices ENCOURAGE piracy, just so you can strip out all the DRM and distribution crap.

    I never have had a single problem with a book on either of my nook tablets. I’ve never had to strip anything out. I just get the book, same as I would if it was dead tree. *shrug*

    For what it’s worth, I fought the whole e-book thing for quite a long time, thought I wouldn’t be able to switch over. I was wrong. I love e-books, mostly because I can get them *right now*, no waiting. I don’t have to wait to go into town, I don’t have to wait for a book to arrive if I ordered online. I can also highlight and annotate to my heart’s content, without defacing a book (that was drummed into me as a sprog – don’t mark books, ever!) I love all my paper books, and wouldn’t get rid of them for the world, and I still buy them, but until we get the downstairs re-done next Spring, I’m completely out of space for them. Our house is already almost completely bookshelves.

  29. Davros says

    I have come across some weird tricks used by some who publish in Pdf format
    i wanted to convert to plain text to fix the spelling from USA to Australian English
    and found that the pdf save as other exported rubbish

    after a bit of investigating i found that the publisher had used a custom font that changed what ascii code related to what letter

    sort of like a substitution code

    Interesting

  30. Ichthyic says

    I’ve never had to strip anything out.

    seriously.

    anecdote /= data, remember?

    You should see what it’s like even trying to ORDER ebooks here in Kiwiland, let alone the crap they try to bundle with them, and the outrageous prices they charge even when things ARE available.

    I love ebooks too. which is exactly why the business model has to change. not just for ebooks, but for EVERYTHING the modern publishing industry involves itself with: music, movies, tv… everything.

  31. says

    Ichthyic:

    anecdote /= data, remember?

    Yes, I know. I was relating my personal experience, like everyone else in the thread.

    You should see what it’s like even trying to ORDER ebooks here in Kiwiland, let alone the crap they try to bundle with them, and the outrageous prices they charge even when things ARE available.

    Erm, anecdote /= data, remember? I’m sorry things are so shitty for you, and I understand your hostility and desire for things to change. I agree that things should change for the better, but your hostility doesn’t need to be directed at everyone else, let alone me because I haven’t had a shit experience.

  32. Ichthyic says

    ok, now you’re just being obtuse.

    you tried to present your position as if nothing needed to be changed with ebooks, in direct response to my encouragement of piracy to encourage change.

    sorry, but you’re missing the point here.

  33. Ichthyic says

    seriously, your position would be like saying we need do nothing about racism, because you don’t personally experience it in your neighborhood.

    you gotta agree that’s a rather narrowminded position to take, right?

  34. Ichthyic says

    , but your hostility doesn’t need to be directed at everyone else, let alone me because I haven’t had a shit experience.

    emphasis is not hostility.

    fail.

  35. anuran says

    I’m sorry that NZ stores are such jerks about ebooks. I’ve been very happy with the Amazon store here in the US. And if you want a book from Project Gutenberg or some publisher that isn’t available in a format your reader will handle there’s always Calibre which can manage and convert them.

  36. chigau (違う) says

    Ichthyic #40

    seriously, your position would be like saying we need do nothing about racism, because you don’t personally experience it in your neighborhood.

    Get a grip.
    And a shift key.

  37. Suido says

    Made the switch to an ebook last year, currently reading the Malazan books by Steven Erikson.

    Pros – all about convenience. Carrying, reading on any angle, instant purchasing from home.
    Cons – all about navigation. Can’t keep a finger wedged in map pages for quick reference. Next section button only recognises the highest order of sections, so if chapters are grouped into books, the next button won’t take you through chapter by chapter.

    Overall, I welcome my new robotic master.

  38. Shplane, Spess Alium says

    Ok, so, I entirely want to make an evolutionary algorithm that automatically writes a book in response to reader feedback, set it up, and see what comes out the other end.

    Too bad I decided that I hate Computer Science and switched over to a Political Science degree, I guess.

  39. erik333 says

    @32 Ichthyic

    Your thievery apologetics is unimpressive. A business tries to make a profit?! The nerve of some people… If you think a commodity is too expensive? Buying it is too tedious? Steal it! That’ll bring the pricing down, if anything will… and totally not encourage invasive legislation changes to police the internet or anything.

  40. JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness says

    35
    Caine, Fleur du mal

    I never have had a single problem with a book on either of my nook tablets. I’ve never had to strip anything out. I just get the book, same as I would if it was dead tree. *shrug*’

    Yeah, but if you switch devices to anything else, your books are locked into that B&N account. If you lose access to that account, you lose your books too.

    Calibre has a plugin to strip the DRM so that way the book is actually yours. Save it to wherever you want, use it with what ever program and what ever device. Since I can’t afford books as it is, loosing my precious books, including the notes/highlights is fucking terrifying.

    Did you know those are saved only on your device and account too? You can’t pull them out at all. I’m not even sure if they save to the account, I just know they save on the device. There isn’t even a Calibre plugin or anything to get your Nook notes & stuff out to save to a separate document. I’ve read free e-books from Nook and when I had to re-download the book, none of my notes/highlights/bookmarks were there. It just synced the last page read.

    ==========
    48
    erik333

    A business tries to make a profit?!

    It’s not the profit that’s the problem (although there’s some ridiculous book companies charging $20 for e-book of a simple fiction novel), it’s the way they are doing it. It’s the locking down. Just like with game companies making your solo play game have always on DRM, it ignores the people that gets screwed over in their predatory practices.

  41. says

    JAL:

    Did you know those are saved only on your device and account too? You can’t pull them out at all. I’m not even sure if they save to the account, I just know they save on the device. There isn’t even a Calibre plugin or anything to get your Nook notes & stuff out to save to a separate document. I’ve read free e-books from Nook and when I had to re-download the book, none of my notes/highlights/bookmarks were there. It just synced the last page read.

    I really feel like I’m supposed to grovel here, because I haven’t had those problems, either. I have all my e-books downloaded to a dedicated file, which is stored on my laptop and external harddrive. I can download from my library on b&n. Also, I’ve had to do a hard reboot twice on my old tablet, and all my books which were highlighted and annotated showed up with all my stuff in place when I downloaded them again.

  42. JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness says

    50
    Caine, Fleur du mal

    Huh. Odd. I’m going to have to look into that.

    And no, I wasn’t trying to make you feel bad or anything. I just wasn’t aware if you’ve had to do anything like that. I thought it was “Nothing has gone wrong, right out of the box” type situation. That’s what it sounded like to me up thread and I haven’t been around enough to read/remember if you talked before about any problems.

    Sorry.

  43. erik333 says

    @49 JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness

    Luckily, you can choose not to buy said book for $20. And whatever the price is, it’s always going to be “ridiculous” compared to getting it for free by theft. If publishers feel the best way to protect their copyright is by DRM, that’s their business. If you don’t like it, you can always choose not to use their service.

  44. says

    erik333:

    If publishers feel the best way to protect their copyright is by DRM, that’s their business.

    The problem is that DRM is not the best way to do that, and it’s perfectly okay to point that out, and be upset about it, especially when you’re seriously affected by it.

    If you don’t like it, you can always choose not to use their service.

    This sort of shit is flat out unhelpful, and it’s nasty to boot. I’d suggest that if you don’t have anything positive or constructive to say, to shut the hell up. The only thing you’re going to get for being so damn nasty to JAL is a face full of nastiness right back. Try thinking instead of letting your privilege do your talking.

  45. The Mellow Monkey: Non-Hypothetical says

    I think all but one of my books are available without DRM. Unfortunately, the publisher who insists on using DRM is going to be handling a bunch of upcoming stuff that I’m actually proud enough of to put my real name on. I don’t want it, but it’s not my decision.

    So when people pirate stuff to get back at the publisher for putting DRM on there that I never wanted in the first place? Yeah, fuck me.

    I’m very anti-DRM and very sympathetic to people who get fucked over by publishers and ebook outlets–as an avid reader, I’m in the same boat!–but it hurts when people talk as though the weeks or months of my life that went into producing something are worthless and should just be passed around for free because the publisher made a bad decision. I want things to be as simple and convenient and awesome for readers as possible, but I don’t want to be the sacrificial lamb for someone else to make a point. It’s a shitty situation in a lot of ways and I feel for anybody who’s lost their library because of it.

    As much scorn as it often gets, this is one of the nice things about self-publishing: any of that stuff I have complete control over and I get to keep all the profits.

  46. JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness says

    53
    erik333

    @49 JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness

    Luckily, you can choose not to buy said book for $20. And whatever the price is, it’s always going to be “ridiculous” compared to getting it for free by theft. If publishers feel the best way to protect their copyright is by DRM, that’s their business. If you don’t like it, you can always choose not to use their service.

    No shit, Sherlock. You can be anti-DRM and not be a pirate. Better go re-read my comment. But you’re flat out refusing to acknowledging that some people do not like it and do not have a choice. It’s be screwed or be a pirate. Most pirates I know go anti-DRM choices when available and go pirate when there isn’t an option. Then there are people who buy the product and go pirate when they get screwed so they don’t end up rewarding the practice by buying multiple copies.

    If your DRM breaks my product to make me buy another, then I have no problem stripping DRM and moving to a different option where I don’t support that practice. That’s how and why I got so big into indie authors. And yes, I already stopped buying the books for $20 (even if I had money, I wouldn’t buy it), which is why I haven’t read a recent Stephen King book. And libraries aren’t an option for everyone either.

  47. says

    MM:

    Unfortunately, the publisher who insists on using DRM is going to be handling a bunch of upcoming stuff that I’m actually proud enough of to put my real name on. I don’t want it, but it’s not my decision.

    I’ll be buying your book regardless of how the publisher handles it. I’m looking forward to it very much, and I think you deserve every penny you can get.

  48. says

    Also, erik333, DRM is pointless, as any text displayed on a computer screen can be copied. It’s only used as a sword to hang over a reader’s head. If you’re going to be such an insufferable snot, at least come up with a valid argument.

  49. Shplane, Spess Alium says

    Then there are the people who just honestly couldn’t have goddamn bought it in the first place (Due to living in the wrong country or having to spend their money on, y’know, like, food), and aren’t actually taking anything from anyone by copying a file. I know very few pirates who have mountains of cash just lying around but choose to not spend it on artists they like just to be an asshole. In fact, I know absolutely none of those. I know plenty who spend way more money than they actually have trying to support artists where they can, and getting the rest of the meager enjoyment they scarcely manage to scrounge out of life’s dumpster by downloading the book/album/show/movie for free, because buying the t-shirt means you can also wear your support rather than freezing to death.

    Fuck yes I’d download a car.

  50. erik333 says

    @54 Caine, Fleur du mal

    Pointing that out is a perfectly reasonable thing. Using that as the much rehashed and transparent justification for getting shit for free isn’t. (which originates at #32)

    Luckily everyone in a free society has the same privilige, if you do not like the DRM stuff… don’t buy the ebook/game. They can’t force you to buy it. Now if you were trying to get subversive literature into some opressive setting, then you might have a case. But the argument started with the position that piracy was a good response to not liking publishers profit margins and business models.

    @56 JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness

    Of course you can, but this line of discussion started with piracy apologetics. Also, you refuse to acknowledge there usually is the third option: don’t buy the book. Then you are neither screwed over nor a pirate. Now if publishers hide what DRM steps they’ve taken, and that it breaks stuff your end – that sounds like fraud.

    Refusing to buy overpriced books or moving to indie publishing alternatives is perfectly reasonable and a good idea.

    @58 Caine, Fleur du mal

    Of course it can (any text in a printed book could be copied too, but that was a bit more inconvenient) that’s why they use DRM. That way you can’t argue you performed copyright infringement by accident or without reflection. The book isn’t in in a freely distributable format just so people won’t simply email a good book they read to all their friends, who in turn redistribute it to all their friends. The purpose of DRM is to make it inconvenient to distribute illegal copies of their work, and in extension to make it possible to make a living in the publishing business. You might argue that they are misinformed until you are blue in the face, that still doesn’t give you the right to infringe on their copyright.

  51. says

    eric333

    Luckily everyone in a free society has the same privilige,

    The amount of fail here, I have neither enough faces nor palms for it.
    I suggest that you start educating yourself on the meaning of “privilege” in social justice discourse.
    No, not everyone has the same privilege in these allegedly “free” societies. Some groups of people have advantages over others that are no way grounded in any actual achievements.
    The opition “not to buy a book” is only an option if you can just choose to do so. If you cannot afford to buy X, it’s not a choice. If it’s a book you need for college it’s not a choice.
    Of course, opting out of many things means isolating yourself from society, meaning the price you pay for your choice is rather high.

  52. says

    eric333

    You appear to be very hip on what DRM is supposed to do, but at the same time willing to ignore its actual effects.

    Those who are into the whole pirate culture thing can still reasonably easily make copies, whilst those who merely wish to read a book they can only buy from (for instance) Amazon in an electronic format are screwed because they bought a reader which doesn’t support file-types supplied by Amazon.

    So tell me, how is stripping the DRM from a legally bought book, so that I can convert it to a format my reader will display, for my own use, in any way morally bad?

  53. vaiyt says

    If publishers feel the best way to protect their copyright is by DRM, that’s their business.

    And, apparently, we don’t have the right to criticize it, or seek alternatives.

    erik333, get out of your high horse. You think you’re giving us moral lessons by telling us we shouldn’t give the middle finger to skeevy and inefficient business practices. Screw you and your corporate stooging.

    DRM is stupid. It’s stupid because it causes the most problems for the people who bought the book legally. The first thing any pirate worth their salt will do is remove such asinine restrictions. Therefore, pirates get a better product than the people who actually spent their money in it, while legal buyers are the ones treated like criminals. How is that moral or even intelligent in any way?

  54. The Mellow Monkey: Non-Hypothetical says

    erik333 @ 53

    If publishers feel the best way to protect their copyright is by DRM, that’s their business.

    Sure, if the publisher is the one who wrote the book. It’s shit when a publisher gets that kind of control over a title written by someone else, though. What, they did so goddamn much that they deserve the actual copyright from the author and the ability to control how the person who buys the book uses it? So many new–and not so new–authors get suckered into this system where they give up all the rights for their titles forever after, just so they can be screwed over along with their readers.

    There are good publishers out there, but the majority of the system is not fair to readers or authors. I’d like to see that system change, because as bad as it is for readers it’s downright predatory against hopeful writers out there. More indie authors actually helps this, as it shifts the balance of power away from the publishers and is usually a lot more reader-friendly.

    Shplane @ 59

    I know plenty who spend way more money than they actually have trying to support artists where they can, and getting the rest of the meager enjoyment they scarcely manage to scrounge out of life’s dumpster by downloading the book/album/show/movie for free, because buying the t-shirt means you can also wear your support rather than freezing to death.

    A very good point. Again, another argument in favor of artists having control over their own production: they can offer things for less or do “pay what you think is fair/what you can afford” systems and things like that.

  55. nathanaelnerode says

    “As much scorn as it often gets, this is one of the nice things about self-publishing: any of that stuff I have complete control over and I get to keep all the profits.”

    Don’t ever publish through a publisher who won’t agree to your terms. Just don’t!

    I realize some people need the publicity machine of a publisher. If you do, accept the deal with the devil for, say, one book, then refuse to give them any more.

    Publishers add almost no value these days, and when they use things like DRM, they subtract value.