Big Six Publishing Kills Writers, Books, And Itself

Trying to Buy le Carré

No one wants to sell me a book by an author I enjoy, in a format I prefer to read it in. I could game the system, get a gift card, use a US address, and buy it that way.

Or I could pay more attention to the results I get in Google when I search on “ebook our kind of traitor” — half the first page listing is comprised of torrents. The torrents have it free in EPUB, HTML, LIT, LRF, MOBI, PDF, RTF format options.

To mangle Clint Eastwood: “How honest to you feel today?”

Does Penguin believe that only Americans and the British read English? Pay attention to Twitter? LibraryThing? GoodReads? No one else in the world reads English and notices new books are available from famous authors? No one else in the world wants to buy ebook versions of those new books (hardcover versions are more widely available)?

He did a dangerous thing there.

Made me curious.

And what he stated was true. In less than five minutes, I had this illegal booty on my hard drive (which was deleted after making the screensnaps for this post because writers need to be paid for their work).

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And here are samples from that pirated ePub edition:

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I’m providing full-screen samples so the publisher can establish it is indeed their eBook — and to induce a heart attack in them too. Because I am mean.

Seeing that happen, I wondered what else was available. I searched for two writers I will not name whose works I like. They were not available. Good for them. They’ll still be able to pay their bills.

Then I wondered if the Moby Dick of eBooks was out there — The Millennium Trilogy.

Yep. And the pirates are doing what the publishers will not: make them a bundled set!

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Not just all three books in one file — but three formats for each of them (I leave out the PDF, which is for a single book): LRF (Sony), ePub, and Microsoft Reader LIT.

And here are samples from this.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, ePub:

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The Girl Who Played with Fire, ePub:

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The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, ePub:

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, LRF:

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The Girl Who Played with Fire, LRF:

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The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, LRF:

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, LIT:

The Girl Who Played with Fire, LIT:

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The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, LIT:

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How many times will the Big Six have to see this happen before it wakes up?

1) Your eBooks are too damned expensive. People don’t give a damn about your “fixed costs” (which includes your too-fat salaries at the very top). Google dominated the entire world starting from nothing. We should pity your overfed overpaid fat asses?

2) There are no more regional rights. The new regions are the boundaries of language. You get to sell English-language worldwide. All other languages are now the sub-rights for “regions.”

3) Start making bundled sets. Or you’re going to screw every writer with a series whose backlist is too damned expensive as single buys.

4) What is your mission? To sell books or to keep your jobs? You can do the latter by lowering the prices to make the former larger than you ever dreamed.

This won’t be the last post I’ll do like this.

You lot never learn.

It’s amazing how Random House could find the backbone when presented with Odyssey Editions — a few backlist books! But when it comes to manning up, making the above changes, not one single Big Six publisher has the guts to do what’s needed.

And that’s why the Big Six are killing writers, books — and themselves.


Filed under Digital Overthrow, eBooks: General, Friction, Marketing

19 responses to “Big Six Publishing Kills Writers, Books, And Itself

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Big Six Publishing Kills Writers, Books, And Itself « Mike Cane's xBlog --

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  3. Great Post!!!

    Fabulous. Well written and executed. Yet, from my experience, I can tell you that the Big Six will not listen nor will they get it.

    Soon it’ll be the Big Three: Amazon, Apple and Google Editions.

    Goodbye Big Six

    • Might be the Big Four – Barnes & Noble is putting up a good fight with their new Nook/digital publishing and they’ve put out B&N editions of print books for years.

      • mikecane

        Barnes & Noble and the Nook are doomed. Lock-in mutated version of Adobe DRM, device is not international. B&N Chairman doesn’t even use his own Nook.

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  5. Excellent post. People want to be honest but when things are either too expensive or not available to obtain legally they sometimes take the easy way out. Purchasing your ebooks legally SHOULD be the easy way. I hope this opens some folks eyes!

  6. Good post, Mike.

    I’ve come to see piracy as the consequence of a bad API, not limited to but certainly including DRM and price.

    I recently had a chance to speak at the Novelists, Inc. annual conference in Florida. On a panel that (nominally) addressed digital rights, the moderator asked if there were any new models on the horizon.

    I borrowed the idea of worldwide English rights and added that it probably would reduce piracy if digital content could be made widely available at once. Another panelist, a literary agent, responded by talking about how much time it took to clear worldwide rights. I said, “Umm, not if you sell them to one publisher”.

    • mikecane

      And what they don’t consider is that with English rights globally, they’d make more sales than the current piecemeal by-land rights model.

      • I went on to say that the old (and I guess existing) model of selling rights narrowly may have made sense when printing and distribution depended on a local partner. With e-books, the need for that local partner is diminished or eliminated.

      • mikecane

        Yes, that’s exactly the point they refuse to get.

      • What a great story, Brian. Your come back to the literary agent gave me a belly laugh because of the agent’s assumption that everything has to be done piecemeal.

        I am work right now with a small press that launches its *print* titles in Canada, US, UK, AU, South Africa, New Zealand, and Singapore all in the same month. (I edit a series for, among my other editorial/proposal duties.)

        So one doesn’t even need to deal with one of the big six to get the sort of scenario you suggested. Good job!

  7. iucounu

    This is all very well, but in order for publishers to buy world language rights, authors and agents have to be willing to sell them. You moan about Random House finding their backbone over Odyssey editions, but that was a skirmish in the continuing war over who gets to keep the money saved by not having to pay for paper and warehousing and freight any more.

    Publishers would like to make more profit. Authors would like bigger royalties. Consumers would like lower prices. Against this background, negotiating ebook royalties at the moment is a very tricky business, given that I’ve heard agents ask for 75% on ebooks. Most big publishers don’t want to go over 25%. So there’s a huge gap there that isn’t even close to being closed; and this isn’t exactly helping the consolidation of territorial rights.

    • mikecane

      Sorry, but no. The power, as I pointed out with the RH v Wylie/OE skirmish, ultimately rests in the hands of the publishers. They must *lead*. That they haven’t has allowed Amazon to lead *them* instead. Now they’re about to be led by Google too. They must lead or die, period.

      • iucounu

        Again, all very well saying publishers must lead, but what are you actually suggesting they do? Buy world English Language rights? OK, that’s what most publishers will try to do in the first place. But what about when they can’t?

        You’re wrong to say that all the power is in the hands of publishers here – at least on the territoriality issue – because they can’t compel authors or agents to sell them rights. All they can do is make their best offer, and at the moment, the best offer most houses are prepared to make is around 25% on ebooks. Is that enough? I dunno. Do people want to go around setting all sorts of precedents, in the current rather unformed ebook market? Not as far as I can see.

        I agree with you that ebook pricing is largely bonkers. I hear people talking about pegging ebook RRPs to the lowest-priced available physical edition, which strikes me as madness. Oh, and bundling is a good idea, too. I just think you need to have some patience on the territoriality issue, because from direct personal experience it’s a lot more thorny and complicated than just hoisting our banner of common sense and marching off into the future.

      • mikecane

        Publishing can easily make the case of the advantages for having world rights to English better than I can, but here are just two of them:

        1) Less fractured accounting because royalties come from one source in one currency (I’d suggest the writer’s native currency; thus the UK branch for a UK author publishes worldwide from there, while an American writer has his sales originate in America)

        2) More books sold because everyone can buy them everywhere, which means lots more money at once for the writer, agent, and publisher; how is this not Win for everyone?

        These are two huge points of friction. More can be found but it’s not my role to give them free in-depth consulting (or even paid, for that matter). Removing friction is what the Internet is all about.

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  10. Pingback: Notes on digital piracy | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment

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