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Old 04-08-2013, 09:32 AM   #1
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Scott Turow: The Slow Death of the American Author (NYTimes)

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/08/op...?smid=pl-share

What could have been a very good article about the changing landscape came across as a bit too "poor, poor us" for me. It also seems a bit dated, in the sense that I wanted to say, "Did you just now notice this or have you spent three years formulating your response?"

I guess I was just turned off a bit by the tone in certain passages.
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Old 04-08-2013, 10:10 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Turlow in the New York Times
Now many public libraries want to lend e-books, not simply to patrons who come in to download, but to anybody with a reading device, a library card and an Internet connection. In this new reality, the only incentive to buy, rather than borrow, an e-book is the fact that the lent copy vanishes after a couple of weeks. As a result, many publishers currently refuse to sell e-books to public libraries.
Hello? If I borrow a paper book from the library, it disappears from my possession after a couple weeks. How does that differ from a borrowed ebook, Scott? The publishers claim to refuse to sell e-books to public libraries because library books can wear out, but ebooks never do.
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Old 04-08-2013, 02:27 PM   #3
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latest example of how the global electronic marketplace is rapidly depleting authors’ income streams
I would like to offer up another hypothesis as to what is depleting authors' income streams:

• too many authors

• too many books

I don't have ten authors that I like. I don't have a hundred. I have hundreds. I can't buy everybody's books, and even if I did I wouldn't have enough time in my life to read them all before I die.

The market is over saturated with reading material.

If there were fewer authors, and fewer books available, those authors would likely be able to make a decent living just by writing. Now that hundreds of thousands of people in this country fancy themselves an author, the book pool just keeps growing; but the pile of discretionary income people have to purchase those books isn't getting any bigger.
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Old 04-08-2013, 02:44 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by bgalbrecht View Post
Hello? If I borrow a paper book from the library, it disappears from my possession after a couple weeks. How does that differ from a borrowed ebook, Scott? The publishers claim to refuse to sell e-books to public libraries because library books can wear out, but ebooks never do.
That's rather his point. He's not comparing borrowing a paper book vs borrowing an ebook, he's comparing borrowing an ebook vs buying a paper book.

There's a point there, but I don't think it's the point he thinks it is. The current publishing business model is in serious trouble, yes. Writing, as a profession, it's far less clear, especially if you take in to account the tiny percentage of authors who ever actually made a living at it.
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Old 04-08-2013, 03:06 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by bgalbrecht View Post
Hello? If I borrow a paper book from the library, it disappears from my possession after a couple weeks. How does that differ from a borrowed ebook, Scott? The publishers claim to refuse to sell e-books to public libraries because library books can wear out, but ebooks never do.
I took it as being about convenience. It's generally more convenient to buy a paper book than to borrow a paper book. But with e-books that's not really the case.

When you buy a paper book you have a lot more outlets to choose from, and they usually have better operating hours than libraries. Additionally, you don't have to remember to return it and you don't have to make the trek to do so.

With e-books it's just as convenient to download a book from Amazon as it is to download one from the library, and since it automatically expires you don't even have to remember to return it.
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Old 04-08-2013, 03:15 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by taustin View Post
There's a point there, but I don't think it's the point he thinks it is.
That pretty much sums up the entire piece.

I was really bothered, perhaps more than I should be, about his reference to authors being "one of the few professions directly protected in the Constitution". What he seems to miss is that the provisions and protections in the US Constitution are available to every American citizen. Those protections apply to various types of creative works which anyone can create. He makes it sound like authors are some sort of Constitutionally-protected class, without acknowledging that this particular club is one that anyone can join.

Which brings us to pidgeon92's point - just about everyone seems to be joining the author club these days. Supply and demand has run amok.
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Old 04-08-2013, 03:52 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CWatkinsNash View Post
That pretty much sums up the entire piece.

I was really bothered, perhaps more than I should be, about his reference to authors being "one of the few professions directly protected in the Constitution". What he seems to miss is that the provisions and protections in the US Constitution are available to every American citizen. Those protections apply to various types of creative works which anyone can create. He makes it sound like authors are some sort of Constitutionally-protected class, without acknowledging that this particular club is one that anyone can join.
Well everybody is free to write - that said neither you nor I (or anybody else) Is obliged to read everything.
The only difference between that and music is that no one tries to assault us with an "$_country next bestselling author" show.
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Old 04-08-2013, 03:59 PM   #8
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Turow's anecdote about the difficulties of writers in Russia rubs me the wrong way. He asserts basically that writers in Russia no longer have the influence they once had because there are few remaining publishers, plus rampant piracy of e-books.

I haven't been to Russia, but nonetheless wouldn't a more plausible reason be that culture and technology have changed, and people have more ways to entertain themselves and stay informed than just reading?
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Old 04-08-2013, 04:34 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by CWatkinsNash View Post
Which brings us to pidgeon92's point - just about everyone seems to be joining the author club these days. Supply and demand has run amok.
In my library, I see a strange thing.

Almost every author, except some, have started writing in the 90's, especially fantasy-authors. Some even only turned out their first book when they were way into their 40's. When I look through my Calibre listing, I see some stuff from the 70's, something from the 60's, some classics.... But it's all dwarfed by the newer stuff, starting at around 1990: *BOOM!* Most of the books I've read at this point have been written between 1985 and 2010, and I've been reading since childhood.

It just looks like as if in the 90's, half the English speaking world decided to start writing; at least is does for me. Some (fantasy) authors are writing so fast that I'm actually starting to question if I should keep following them; turning out 2-4 books of over 450 pages a year can't be good for quality. Maybe I should start reading some of the older stuff again, from a time where a 450 page book took 4 years to write instead of 4 months.

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Old 04-08-2013, 04:39 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by pidgeon92 View Post
I would like to offer up another hypothesis as to what is depleting authors' income streams:

• too many authors

• too many books

I don't have ten authors that I like. I don't have a hundred. I have hundreds. I can't buy everybody's books, and even if I did I wouldn't have enough time in my life to read them all before I die.

The market is over saturated with reading material.

If there were fewer authors, and fewer books available, those authors would likely be able to make a decent living just by writing. Now that hundreds of thousands of people in this country fancy themselves an author, the book pool just keeps growing; but the pile of discretionary income people have to purchase those books isn't getting any bigger.
I think the same arguements were made in the 1800's when the Penny Dreadfuls were started, and again for the 10 cent pulps. Yet again and louder when mass market paperbacks were introduced.

I agree there is a lot of drek being published, (One person's drek is another person's treasure perhaps) but I admire in most cases the fact that people are out there trying.

Still I find it an oxymoron that too many good books are being published. How can there be too many good books even if I can never read them all?

I know that new authors cut into the income of existing authors, just as today's existing authors cut into the income of other authors when they published their first successful book. Same with any new store, manufacturer, or service provider.

I too have hundreds of authors I enjoy. I actually have a list of 769 which I still add to every week or so as a post at MR or browsing the available list at the library reminds me of a forgotten (by me) author, or one that sounds interesting.

Of my top 100 authors, at least 30% are dead dammit, so I feel the need to add to the list, although I may not have to, but I actually feel the pheromones when I discover a previously unread book by a favorite author or a new author I enjoy.

Keep em coming I say.

helen
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Old 04-08-2013, 05:34 PM   #11
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Drama queen much? His position as President of the Author's Guild has him writing all sorts of overly biased pieces. I knew he'd work an anti-Amazon statement in there (bad for us, good for them). At least he's consistent.
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Old 04-08-2013, 05:48 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by CWatkinsNash View Post
That pretty much sums up the entire piece.

I was really bothered, perhaps more than I should be, about his reference to authors being "one of the few professions directly protected in the Constitution". What he seems to miss is that the provisions and protections in the US Constitution are available to every American citizen. Those protections apply to various types of creative works which anyone can create. He makes it sound like authors are some sort of Constitutionally-protected class, without acknowledging that this particular club is one that anyone can join.

Which brings us to pidgeon92's point - just about everyone seems to be joining the author club these days. Supply and demand has run amok.
He's referring to the fact that copyright (and patents) are allowed for specifically in the Constitution. He is, in addition, dead wrong in his interpretation. The constitution does not protect authors as a profession, it allows them, which is to say, it allows copyright as the cost of having a large public domain. Copyright laws isn't interpreted the same as it used to be, really, but he's just flat wrong in his take on what the Constitution says.
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Old 04-08-2013, 09:47 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by K. Molen View Post
I took it as being about convenience. It's generally more convenient to buy a paper book than to borrow a paper book. But with e-books that's not really the case.

When you buy a paper book you have a lot more outlets to choose from, and they usually have better operating hours than libraries. Additionally, you don't have to remember to return it and you don't have to make the trek to do so.

With e-books it's just as convenient to download a book from Amazon as it is to download one from the library, and since it automatically expires you don't even have to remember to return it.
That's assuming the library has enough copies in stock so you can log on and immediately reserve it, something that often doesn't happen. I've had to wait months for some books to become available. In general, checking out books from the library is less convenient for Kindle and Nook users than it is to buy it (I'm not sure if Kobo or Sony can download direct from their respective stores). But I will admit, when it is available it usually is more convenient to borrow an ebook than a paper book from the library. On the other hand, someone who is borrowing a book from the library probably wasn't going to buy it anyway.

Last edited by bgalbrecht; 04-08-2013 at 10:17 PM.
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Old 04-08-2013, 10:27 PM   #14
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I'm not sure I understood the point about the recent ruling:

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LAST month, the Supreme Court decided to allow the importation and resale of foreign editions of American works, which are often cheaper than domestic editions. Until now, courts have forbidden such activity as a violation of copyright. Not only does this ruling open the gates to a surge in cheap imports, but since they will be sold in a secondary market, authors won’t get royalties.
Doesn't someone (importer) have to purchase the foreign editions and therefore generate royalties for the author?
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Old 04-08-2013, 10:44 PM   #15
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Doesn't someone (importer) have to purchase the foreign editions and therefore generate royalties for the author?
I think so. So the author doesn't get royalties from the resale of the foreign edition, the same way an author doesn't get paid royalties when you buy a used paperback. This wasn't mentioned in the column. Perhaps Turow is aiming at the wrong target.

Last edited by LovesMacs; 04-08-2013 at 10:47 PM. Reason: Edited to be more civil.
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