From their website:
“Judge Chin’s decision that the Google Book Settlement was ’not fair, adequate and reasonable’ gives the National Writers Union even more reason to pursue other means through Congress and the courts to protect and affirm writers’ rights against this sort of corporate infringement,” declared Larry Goldbetter, president of the NWU, the union of freelance writers. ”Because writers’ copyright infringement claims against Google have yet to be resolved, the NWU calls on Google to stop scanning without permission — now.”
After seven years of Google digitizing books without the consent of the copyright holders, the only point that is clear is that the efforts of three parties – Google, the Authors Guild (AG) and the Association of American Publishers (AAP) – to resolve the many issues involved were totally unsuccessful and left most matters yet to be decided, added Goldbetter. NWU hopes that any future settlement talks will include other writers’ groups like the NWU in addition to the Authors Guild, which, according to the judge, may have “antagonistic interests” with at least certain other writers. (Authors Guild v. Google, Inc., 05 CIV 8136 (DC 2011), p. 20. ”NWU looks forward to hearing from Google, AAP and AG about how they plan to broaden the negotiations to include all those who offered substantive objections to the settlement,” stated Goldbetter.
NWU agrees with Judge Chin’s determination that certain matters covered by the proposed settlement should properly be decided by Congress, not the courts. The judge included in that category so-called “orphan works,” books whose copyright holders are not easily ascertained, and rights of foreign authors and publishers, who expressed strong objections to the settlement.
NWU would add to the list for Congressional action the creation of a nationwide, publicly funded digital library, which the settlement sought to place in the hands of Google and unnamed, privately appointed representatives of AG and the AAP. NWU believes in general that Congress is better placed than the courts to protect authors against the kind of wholesale commercial piracy undertaken by Google. NWU notes that the proposed settlement and Judge Chin’s opinion did not deal with the inherent conflict between publishers and authors over control of copyrighted books, a matter that should be addressed in sorely needed copyright reform legislation. As Judge Chin noted, citing a 25-year-old Supreme Court decision, it is “Congress’s responsibility to adapt the copyright laws in response to changes in technology.” (Authors Guild, p. 23)
“Whether in renewed and expanded settlement discussions or in Congress or both,” Goldbetter stated, “the National Writers Union looks forward to working with our litigation partners, the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, to assure that the rights of writers to their works are fully and fairly protected.”
A lot of articles we cover tend to carry the slant that traditional publishers are on the ropes and self-publishing is the big new thing that will save the industry. For a little bit of balance, here’s an article by Roxane Gay, a writer, micropress editor, and assistant professor of English, pointing out some problems with self-publishing. You may not agree with all her points, but they are interesting ones to make. She explains:
I have no problem with self-publishing. It is not an option I would choose for myself, mostly because I don’t have the time to do the work required of someone who self publishes. However, I don’t begrudge writers who do avail themselves of the self-publishing route and it can be a really interesting way of challenging the publishing establishment and getting your work out there without having to deal with some of the more problematic aspects of mainstream publishing. At the same time, just because you can do something does not mean you should.
Gay contrasts Barry Eisler’s decision to turn down a 0,000 advance with Amanda Hocking’s move to traditional publishing. She finds the decisions both made interesting, but is troubled by a number of the comments implying things about “the direness of publishing.” She points out that there isn’t a whole lot of difference between self-publishing and publishing with a micropress except that authors don’t have to spend their own money with micropresses, and micropresses do the same sort of curation and polishing as traditional publishers.
Also, she echoes Rich Adin’s plaint about self-published e-book quality: she sampled a number of self-published books and found only one of them to be excellent—she cites issues with quality of writing, grammar, plotting, etc. that would have caused them to be rejected by traditional publishers.
And she is concerned by the trend toward $.99-.99 pricing for books, fearing that it devalues authors’ work:
I could see myself selling a short story for a buck or two but a book, a whole book? My work is worth more than that. Your work is worth more than that. If I cannot sell my books at a ore [sic] reasonable - price point, perhaps the market is telling me something about my writing. Humbling? Perhaps.
She doesn’t make any mention of the fact that a .99 book will sell far more copies than a - book, and the 70% royalty offered by self-publishing on Amazon means a writer could make more money from a .99 e-book than a traditionally-published hardcover.
Her main point about self-publishing seems to be that “[we] live in an age of entitlement” but, in order to learn and grow in their craft, writers should learn to take “no” for an answer. If you’ve been rejected enough times, she suggests, maybe you should think about what you’re doing wrong instead of rush to publish it yourself. She gets the sense that a lot of people considering self-publishing do so out of impatience and “a certain need for instant gratification.”
I also sense that these writers want to have a book, any book, even a mediocre book, rather than wait for the right agent, publishing opportunity or even the right book from their arsenal as if we each only have one book in us. While publishers have finite resources, writers, generally do not have a finite number of words they can write. If you write one book, you can probably write another. What’s more important—publishing a book or publishing a good book?
Gay writes that she is optimistic about publishing, and continues to believe that if someone is a really good writer, they will eventually get a book deal. As many good writers as can be found in any bookstore, it seems like good writers have a pretty good chance of making it into traditional press themselves. The publishing industry can’t always be to blame, and she’s puzzled by how publishers have now become “the enemy”—though she admits part of this might spring from being too lazy to want to do the kind of work required to self-publish herself.
And she notes, as I’ve said before, that a lot of writers involved in self-publishing have already built up reputations and audiences in traditional publishing that they bring with them to their self-published efforts.
When they evangelize about self publishing it’s like watching a Jennifer Hudson Weight Watchers commercial and believing that all it takes is following the program to look as amazing as she looks right now. For every writer like these bigger hitters there are, literally thousands of writers who will never do more than sell a handful of their self-published books. There’s nothing wrong with that. Success is a personal measure but it’s important to acknowledge that there are just as many small miracles required to succeed via self publishing.
In the end, she says, writers should have faith in their writing, but learn to take “no” for an answer and do something productive with it.
It’s an interesting essay, and generated a lot of interesting discussion in the comments as people like Nick Mamatas emerged to defend the low price point or other self-publishing-related matters. Whether you agree or not, she does make some points that are worth considering.
It seems that without exception, any time someone notices e-book piracy, it’s suddenly a huge problem, instead of having built over ten years during which most publishers and authors who were not Harlan Ellison did not find it worth their time to bother doing anything about. An article in the Guardian today is no exception.
UK writers think that a new publicity campaign is needed to educate people on why “stealing” books is wrong. (Clearly they’ve observed the success that those obnoxious, patronizing PSAs Hollywood has tacked onto theatrical movies have had—because naturally the people who pay to see movies are actually all thieves, who will stop their stealing if only asked in the most insulting way possible.)
And then there’s this little gem:
Novelist Chris Cleave, author of The Other Hand and Little Bee, agreed. "I don’t blame anyone. They don’t do it [download books illegally] because they are evil but because they don’t understand," he said. "In the music industry, when the price of music went down to zero – as it arguably now is because of filesharing – artists didn’t mind that much. My music friends love it because they can make money through gigs and merchandising, they can put their faces on T-shirts. But I’m not a rock star and I don’t have that as an option. If readers lose the habit of paying me for my work, I can’t work. Writing is how I make my living."
The price of music is now “zero”? That must come as news to iTunes, whose 99-cents-per-track music sales have made it the biggest seller of music in the US (or even the world?). Indeed, since music became available at a 99-cent-per-track price, one study has shown that the rate of music piracy has actually plummeted by comparison to other media piracy, making up only 10% of overall BitTorrent traffic (by number of files, not bandwidth). That’s not likely due to any publicity campaign, or even necessarily the RIAA’s habit of filing thousands of file-sharing lawsuits, but because people can now buy what they want in high quality at a reasonable price. (Hey, publishers, are you listening?)
Of course, the same study shows that books make up only 1% of content on BitTorrent.
And piracy is okay as long as it happens to music but not books? I don’t think it’s exactly fair to say that “artists didn’t mind that much” either. Remember the Metallica “Napster BAD” backlash?
To be fair, writers have been seeing fees decrease over the last few years, what with the decline in advances, agency pricing reducing their take-per-book of e-books, and budgetary crises chipping away at the Public Lending Right (which doesn’t cover e-books and audiobooks as it is). But not every, or even necessarily most people who download a book would have bought it (or will even necessarily ever read it).
And some publishers and authors tar second-hand book stores with the same brush. Any time one of their already-sold books changes hands perfectly legally, they’d like to be paid. I would like to see authors get paid for their writing (I have some good friends who are writers!), but I just don’t feel this sort of thing helps the publishing industry’s image. Lest we forget, the depiction of record labels as a bunch of money-grubbing bastards contributed immeasurably to peer-to-peer users’ feelings of entitlement to pirate.
Home Field: Writers Remember Baseball
by John Marshall (editor)
Baseball remembered by nine great writers – there’s community, there’s family, there’s heart. Sherman Alexie leaping from reservation Little League to women, race, and identity. Timothy Egan tells secrets of coaching girls’ Little League, including use of Doppler radar to scan for rain. Holly Morris describes how her women’s softball team, the Smellies, perfected the fine art of hooha. Lynda Barry shares a tale of a magical baseball glove laced with difficult memories of her father. Larry Colton, once a ‘can’t miss prospect’, recalls the hope and pain of his professional pitching debut, then watches a next-generation ‘can’t miss prospect’ make the same mistakes. And much more. Here is baseball without stats but full of life, played by local heroes and heroines on their home field.
Click on the link below to start downloading this free ebook:-
Home Field: Writers Remember Baseball – 211 pages, 275KB (HTML)
The link to this online ebook is under “Chapter Links” on the left side of the page.
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