Monday, November 07, 2011


The desperate attempts of the Eurozone leaders to induce China to bankroll their future borrowing seem to be modelled on the guy who having maxed-out his credit cards goes out looking for a loan shark. On the plus side, though, this has prompted mention of that useful Chinese word, weiji, with its double meaning of risk and opportunity.

It pretty much sums up the situation with e-publishing too. On the one hand, it returns power to the author. No one aged twenty-five can say, 'This book will never reach a reader,' because it doesn't appeal to the twenty-somethings. There isn't an editor to insist on ungrammatical alterations because she has never quite grasped the use of the subjunctive. There isn't a marketing department to impose an eye-catching but wholly inappropriate cover, like the legendary, 'Six girls in the desperate hunt for a man' attached to Pride and Prejudice. Earnings from your book don't go towards paying for long editorial lunches in restaurants where you couldn't afford the starter.

On the other hand, as your book is launched into the vast internet ocean, how will any reader know it's there? Without beady-eyed professional help, how effective will your proof-reading be? Readers hate misprints. And if you refuse to allow commercial considerations to influence your choice of cover, are you ever going to make any money at all?

That's weiji.

Now, though, it's getting more and more loaded on the 'risk' side. An article in the Wall Street Journal last week featured Amazon's latest incarnation, as a book lender. Only through Kindle, of course – no tablet apps allowed – and through their Prime service with a $79 dollar subscription. The six largest publishers have turned them down, though others are accepting a flat fee for their titles.

Public libraries are already offering e-book loans. I can't speak for the US, but the UK government has refused to extend Public Lending Right payments to borrowed e-books.

I'm sure this is popular with the reading public, and I'm sure that Amazon will make lots of money out of it. It always does.

The article didn't mention the situation for authors who are trustingly putting their books out on Kindle, as I am in the process of doing at the moment with a couple of books from my back list. But for sure, it's not only in the waters of high finance that the sharks are circling.


Rick Blechta said...

I did some commenting on the topic of Amazon‘s new “e-library” on Facebook and some of the reactions were quite illuminating. Some authors just do not see the danger inherent in the project. Once again we’re losing control of our intellectual property. If enough publishers sign on to this, the five big holdouts will have to give in eventually.

And guess who will come out at the short end of the stick?

Timely topic. Thanks so much, Aline.

hannah Dennison said...

It's overwhelming and more than a little bit depressing if you ask me. Thanks for this info.

Aline Templeton said...

It's the way you think you've for once got a bit more control, and then there's a new wrinkle and whatever happens you're still on the bottom, providing the material for everyone else's profit. Still, creative artists have always had to struggle. The grit in the oyster produces the pearl!


Charlotte Hinger said...

It's the wild, wild west out there. One of the biggest problems for readers with ebooks is determining quality. I'm finding that the most aggressive promoters often write the worst books.

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Rick Blechta said...

You make a good point, Charlotte. The minute I hear someone (virtually) screaming, "You have to buy my book!" with their promotion, I've found you can be pretty sure that said book is not going to be good.

With the advent of computers, writing became much easier, and many who shouldn't have considered doing so have produced manuscripts whereas before the work involved in this would have proven too daunting.

Now, with e-books, these same people are also publishing them.

"The author obviously wanted to write a book in the worst way – and he has succeeded." —from a review that I once read.