Sunday, September 22, 2019

Once upon a time, an online book seller began to sell a convenient device that made it possible for purchasers of that device (or others like it) to read myriad tomes of copyrighted intellectual property (books) conveniently, and quite cheaply.

As time passed, people who had bought that device or others like it, came to feel entitled to cheap and free entertainment, and they called the entertainment "content".  Then, they came to feel that public libraries ought to lend them "content" without any charge or restriction.

If they thought at all about the rights of authors to be paid, the thinking was very similar to the "let them go on tours, give concerts, and sell T shirts for a living" mindset that plagues elderly musicians who once thought that royalties on the timeless songs they wrote and performed in their prime would sustain them in their old age.

Library patrons claim that if they can read everything an author writes in e-book form, borrowed free and as soon as it is published, the author will benefit from the exposure and publicity.  Readers will read free, they won't even have to visit a library or interface with a librarian.

Apparently, libraries are worried about delays and wait times for e-book-reading patrons if new releases are "embargoed", and librarians fear that limited availability of new releases will make it difficult to expand and sustain their e-book programs.

Heather Schwedel writes sympathetically for Slate on these librarians' concerns.

But wait....  why is it a priority for librarians to expand their e-book programs?  Who benefits?  Patrons who have an urgent desire to read a particular book can visit a library, and borrow a physical copy. There is no embargo on physical copies. The librarians can buy as many physical books as they need, and the authors are paid.

Surely  physical patrons inside libraries are a good thing.  If patrons don't physically visit libraries, librarians could be replaced by chat bots.

Librarians' other complaint (in this case about MacMillan Publishing) is that a two-year license for one e-book costs $60. Is that really an outrageous sum?  Two years is 24 months. If a library allows each loan to last for 14 days, the one e-book could be read by 48 different readers.... more if some readers return the e-book more quickly.

If the book is new, or a very popular read, the library could limit the loan per patron to 5 days, or even to 2 days as they do with movie rentals. Over two years, that $60 could cover 360 readers, which works out at 60 cents per read.  It could even pay for itself if slow readers had to pay fines.

Apparently, chat bots are "a thing".

Writers can use them.

Writers can develop a "chat bot" so their fans can have chats with fictional characters from books, with minimal interaction with the author. There was a time when authors were honored to communicate one-on-one with their readers, and readers wanted to interact with their favorite authors.

Is a bot really a satisfactory substitute?  What do you think?

One of the vanity publishers (at least, I assume that is what they are), is suggesting to their paying subscribers that they can use Facebook Messenger Chatbots to get "positive, verified" book reviews "on autopilot", and allegedly, this canny method will thwart Amazon's unceasing attempts to ensure that book reviews are legitimate.

The Authors Guild and Romance Writers of America author chat forums reflect authors' concerns that valid and legitimate good reviews are removed because Amazon bots cannot tell the difference between a friend and a fan, and bad reviews are given the respect of a bot, even when the "review" is by someone who has not read the book in question.

Piling on Amazon, there are complaints that the site is using its advertising power to give preferential search treatment to its own products.

Dana Mattioli writing for WSJ covers the topic thoroughly:

Finally, and only for those who subscribe to the New York Times, there is an op ed by Richard Conniff  about book piracy, especially in academia.

It gives new meaning to old sayings about "being" or "getting" "on the same page"!
All the best,

1 comment:

  1. Discussion of highly restrictive rules on libraries' use of e-books comprises a big part of the latest Cory Doctorow post I linked to. And now RWA members are viewing with alarm the new (proposed or implemented? -- I'm not sure) Macmillan policy of not allowing libraries to purchase copies of new physical books until eight weeks after release -- apparently on the peculiar idea that preventing people from checking the books out of libraries will increase sales. This publisher seems to have lost sight of what libraries are FOR. They draw in new readers and (statistics show) increase book sales in the long run. Few people who can't afford to buy the hardcover will suddenly scrape up the money because they can't borrow it from the library. Moreover, there are probably quite a few readers like me who, if they aren't sure whether they want a book enough to buy it, will borrow it from the library; then, if they like it enough, they will later buy the paperback. I've done that more than once.