Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Interesting times....

I really don't go in for talking about current events on the blog. The main reason for this is the fact that I am profoundly out of touch with the outside world. I don't have cable and I don't watch the news. On the rare occasion I miss the news and feel the need to absorb some fearmongering bullshit, I just drop a tab of acid and read a Lovecraft story. There's less pretense that way.

I generally assume that if something really interesting happens, one of my friends will tell me, or it will show up in some of the webcomics I read. In a pinch, I assume I'll simply absorb the knowledge through the aether, have it beamed into my mind with alien space rays, or apprehend it directly through examination of my Socratic soul using the dialectic.

I'm well aware that this isn't the most efficient or comprehensive way to aggregate information. But it still beats the hell out of watching Fox News.

The other reason I don't talk much about the issues on here is that when things are big enough to be interesting, they also tend to be so big that it's hard for me to form easily encapsulated opinions about them.

For example, when there was the big kerfuffle about Google digitizing a shitload of books and thereby egregiously violating international copyright law, I was interested. Anything dealing with intellectual property rights effects me personally and professionally. So I read a bunch of stuff about it, thought some thoughts, and had a few really good conversations with a few of my librarian friends.

The upshot of my research? It's a really complicated issue, and I have mixed feelings about it. Is Google being a bit of a dick and doing morally questionable stuff? Absolutely. But.... Well.... It's more complicated than that.

See? Any blog I wrote on the issue would be nothing more than a long-winded shrug. Not terribly fun to write, and not particularly entertaining to read.

That's my recent take on the current Amazon dealio.

For those of you who haven't heard. Amazon (the bookseller) recently got into a bit of an argument with Macmillan (a book publisher) about e-book pricing. As a result, Amazon pulled all of Macmillan's books off their website. Not just the e-books. All the books.

I've done some research and talked to some people and my conclusion is that.

1. This is a big deal.

2. Amazon is being a bit of a dick, and attempting to bully folks in order to get more of the publishing pie than is really fair.

This feels weird for me to say, because honestly, Amazon has been good to me over the years. They gave me good reviews and really helped promote my book early on. It was really nice.

But it really doesn't matter how good they've been to me in the past. If you're nice to me, then beat up my neighbor for his lunch money, you're still a bully. I'm afraid there's just no way around it.

3. This whole thing is pretty complicated, and I'm not well informed enough make any real intelligent assessment of the overall situation or what it might mean for publishing, DRM, or the future of e-books.

If you're interested in that sort of thing, you might want to check out this blog written by the lovely and talented Charles Stross. He understands the landscape of publishing WAY better than me and does a great job of summing things up.

Amazon, Macmillan: an outsider's guide to the fight.

Here's also a blog from Tobias Buckell that has more technical details. He does some of the math for you and explains what all this really means in a delightfully low-bullshit way.

Link to Buckell's blog.

Here's the public statement from Macmillan too.

I'm bringing this to your attention because if you're like me, you sometimes miss things like this unless someone points them out. Also, I'm guessing most of you kinda like books.

I like books too, and while two companies having a corporate slapfight might seem far removed from the book you pick up, read, and enjoy, the truth is that these corporate manoeuvrings have very real effects on which books get published in the future, their quality, and how well authors get treated in the process.

If anyone else has relevant links they'd like to post in the comments below, please feel free to do so. I'm way too tired to dig up more stuff right now. I've got to go to bed.

We're living in interesting times, folks....

pat

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