Hello all and
welcome to the first blogisode (yeah I went there) of ‘Untangling The Web’! UtW’s aim is to become a semi-regular blog built to provide you with some of the trending topics across the Internet that relate to writing and publishing. Hopefully in doing so we’ll be able to generate some discussion and opinions about what’s going on in the world of words. So without further ado, let’s take a look at what’s been going on in the last couple of weeks:
News: The Macmillan versus Amazon debacle
This was a bit of a confusing story, so some background is in order. For those of you who don’t own e-books, you might not know about Amazon’s pricing model for selling digital copies of books on its e-reader, the Kindle. Basically, Amazon buys the rights to the digital books at some wholesale rate, and then can decide to price them at whatever point it likes (frequently cited is the fact that Amazon chooses to sell e-books of bestsellers at US$9.99). Last week Macmillan told Amazon that if they didn’t switch from this model to one that involved selling at the price determined by the publisher and receiving a 30% agency fee for their troubles, they would do what the movie industry does and apply windowing to their products. In other words, there would be a considerable waiting period between the hardcovers being released in bookstores and their digital doppelgangers being released on Amazon. The implication being that people wouldn’t sit around waiting for their favourite blockbuster author’s book to come out on Kindle, they’d just walk to the store and shell out the cash.
Amazon responded to this by pulling all of Macmillan’s books from their listings. Oh, snap! However, soon after this happened, Amazon posted an explanation on their Kindle boards and reinstated Macmillan’s books to their store. The message basically said that while they don’t agree with Macmillan’s pricing model, they’ll do it anyway because, well, if they didn’t someone else would and they’d be missing a piece of the pie. Okay, so maybe I made that last bit up, but there’s been a lot of speculation about how resentful Amazon really is about this move, and how much they just wanted to try and appear to be perceived as fighting on behalf of the little guy. A lot of analysts have highlighted the fact that Amazon is now making money on e-books with this deal (the cost of buying them wholesale and selling them cheaply was not profitable).
How does this bode for the future? Well, there’s a lot of variables to take into account here, such as the newly unveiled iPad and its book store, as well us the upcoming Google book store. If Macmillan can bend Amazon to its will (and those companies are willing to be bent in order to make more of a profit) then the question remains to be answered over who will be the ones setting prices, the publishers who hold the keys to the content, or the service providers that maintain the tollways.
You can read more discussions at the following links:
Mobylives–Amazon sort of admits defeat…in the dead of night.
paidContent.org–In Amazon vs. Macmillan, Amazon Is The Winner
Amazon’s press statement
Wired–Macmillan’s Amazon Beatdown Proves Content Is King
NYTimes–Publishers Gain Leverage In E-Book Negotiations With Google
Rant: The fucking iPad
As if you aren’t already sick of hearing about it (and God forbid you actually know someone who owns one), the really-not-so-surprising release of Apple’s tablet has generated some heated discussion about what such gadgets mean in the context of e-books and popular culture. Everyone seem to be taking some quantum leap between what the iPod did for music (i.e. imbue everyone with the idea that it is the social norm to exclude yourself from every public engagement by constructing a wall of sound made up of two wanky white earbuds and a glorified mouse wheel) and what the iPad might do for the publishing industry and books in general. Suddenly, the idea that being able to read books on a tiny LED screen that will also be full of all sorts of other distracting shit (or not, given it can’t actually multitask, rendering it mostly useless for my epileptic spasms through procrastination) has become tractable and, dare I say it, hip. Let me be crystal clear in my opinion: reading anything on the iPad is not going to be as good as reading it on a dedicated e-book reader. Why? Because a) you’ll be reading it on an LED screen, and not an e-ink screen, and b) you won’t even get to the iBook store because you’ll be too distracted by an app that can turn your iPad into a roll of toilet paper. Reading a book on the iPad will be like reading a book on your computer; painful and faltering. But hey, it’s an Apple product so you can be guaranteed that a whole lot of gadget geeks will buy a whole lot of units. I just don’t think they’ll use it as an e-reader replacement. More as four iTouches strapped together with duct tape.
Other links of interest:
Christopher Currie raises the Indie Question over at SPUNC. That is, where do independant organisations and small presses find themselves in an ever-changing marketplace?
At the Guardian, two articles questioning the representation of two very different social groups in literature: the homeless, and the youth.
Finally, some advice from Maud Newton on the usefulness (or not) of generating grandiose theories of literature, and Mark Sarvas on problems commonly found in debut novels.
(The sources for many of these articles were a variation of RSS feeds and Twitter. Notable amongst the latter are @Meanjin, @Overland, and @AustLiterature. Follow them if you want updates on the latest in the writing world!)