eBooks Nudge Print Books Closer to Shelf Edge. Digital Book Publishing Wave Gathering Momentum!

Thank goodness I was given a Kindle for Christmas two years ago. I say that because the three-day O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing Conference (TOC2009) in NYC this week was all about digital publishing and I could smugly raise my hand when a keynote speaker polled the audience about eReaders. Even though the back of the Amazon Kindle keeps falling off, the battery dies too quickly and I have to carry around a bent paperclip to have handy for the reset button, there were a lot of Kindle devotees in the audience, matched, by the way, by the number of attendees who owned a Sony Digital Book. Doesn’t this tell you something?

It’s All About Me! Yet Again!

This year I was doubly interested in the topic of digital publishing because of the enormous amount of time, energy, and money I spent developing a commercial online publishing presence in 2008 for Back2Press Books and publishing my first print and soon-to-be eBook, The Cure for Jet Lag. As excruciatingly boring, painful or vague as most of the titles of the individual seminars were:

  • Copyright in Today’s Digital Age
  • XML in Practice: Formats, Tools, and Techniques
  • What’s Your Mobile Strategy?
  • Optimizing Distribution + Maximizing Control + Channel Transformation = The Perfect Trifecta for Publishers
  • CEO Roundtable: The Changing Role of Publishers
  • Making an Impact with Travel Content
  • Smart Women Read e-Books
  • Extending the Publishing Ecosystem, Sharing Greater Wealth
  • Authoring Challenges in a Multiplatform World

I was breathless with excitement to cram in as many seminars as I could.

KEYNOTES THAT MADE ME CRAZY MAD.

Stop stealing my property you s.o.b!

One of the keynote speakers was Cory Doctorow. He’s all over the internet, speaking, blogging, writing, etc. Doctorow railed about Digital Rights Management (DRM) being a bad thing. Hey, I love free too. And I can understand giving some things away as an enticement to sweeten the deal on a book purchase (print or digital), but let’s NOT give the main product away or allow people to STEAL it by illegal downloads in the hope/expectation that the content will become viral and then, maybe, others will buy it. This is madness. (Yes, I know all about illegal downloads in the music industry.) How about I let myself into Doctorow’s apartment because he hasn’t locked his front door and steal his monster flat screen TV so I can watch some digital TV?

Cory, listen to me, Big Boy: Most authors do not have the requisite gene to promote themselves and their products as smartly and thoroughly as you. Jeez. Their knees would knock at the thought of venturing onto a stage. As elder-statesman Jason Epstein, co-founder of On Demand Books and a developer of the Espresso Book Machine, said in his mesmerizing keynote: most authors do not want to do anything but write, and it’s an “alone” endeavor that does not involve leaping about on stage or developing ancillary byproducts to offset the loss of income from stolen property. Making me even angrier, the final keynote, Nina Paley, AKA “America’s Best-Loved Unknown Cartoonist,” showed a trailer of her absolutely beautiful, romantic and award-winning cartoon-short, and spoke at length about how she endorses “open content” and welcomes theft (my word) of her images and concepts by anyone and everyone. (Fine, turn a frame into a place mat. Enjoy. Go ahead. Let the filmmaker starve to death.) I’m not buying it. Nope. What she is trying to do is find a film distributor and since she has not to-date, frustrated, she must be doing everything in her power to attract attention in the HOPE that a film distributor will buy the rights. What else can she do? She asks for donations on her Web site, and she does get them, but by her own admission, not enough to stop her from holding out her tin cup. Right. I think I’ll leave my car on the street, doors unlocked, key in the ignition, on the off-chance that will encourage someone to buy my house. I’m in high-dudgeon over this one.

O’REILLY GIVES GOOD LUNCHES

One of the most exciting parts about TOC2009 is you never know with whom you are going to sit at lunch time. True, there’s that awkward moment when you approach a table, tray in hand, with only one empty seat and everyone chatting away, and have to ask: “Do you mind if I join you?” Last year I sat next to a woman from “Publishers Weekly.” We have kept in touch AND met up again this year to chat about PW’s downward spiral and firing of Sara Nelson, Editor-in-Chief. This year I plunked myself down at a table full of Random House suited-up execs and the more casually attired Random House geeks. (Not talking to each other.) The Lightning Source fox who stumbled into my table full of Random House hens clearly could hardly contain himself . . . and didn’t. As a note of interest, the man sitting to my right at the table had just lost his job at another major pub house. His friends at Random House had paid for his ticket to TOC2009. Nice. Very nice. This gesture is just another indication how important networking can be at TOC.

I’ve got a backlog of work to catch up on. So for now, let’s call this TOC2009 Part I, and I’ll try to blog again with more comments re the various seminars I attended. Yes, I attended lots of seminars, including Smart Women Read eBooks (which should have been titled “Box of Books and Bag of Diapers”); Making an Impact with Travel Content (where I exchanged business cards with two panelists); and CEO Roundtable (where one of the panelists, Eileen Gittins, Founder, President & CEO of Blurb, told about riding a rocket fueled by “crafters” into the digital stratosphere in just two years — fellow panelists, Tim O’Reilly, Founder of O’Reilly Media; Michael Hyatt, Pres & CEO of Thompson Publishing; and Bob Young, CEO of Lulu, did collective double takes when they heard Gittin’s stunning stats.) Say what? Huh? She had how many millions of glue-gun-wielding visitors to her site everyday?

Don’t you want to know about the opening night party at Zanzibar; the jaw-dropping silence that filled the Marriott’s Broadway North auditorium as we watched the video of The Espresso Book Machine 2.0 — essentially an ATM for books — automatically print, perfect-bind, and  deliver a single volume in less time that it takes Starbuck’s to produce a fancy cup of  . . . espresso; and the tension-filled last ten minutes of TOC2009?

You betcha. Wink. Wink.

Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing (TM): Make sure you read Comment #4 from Brother Rene. We live for comments around here, so feel free to leave one! Thanks.

22 Responses to “eBooks Nudge Print Books Closer to Shelf Edge. Digital Book Publishing Wave Gathering Momentum!”

  1. Jane R. Says:

    Sounds fabulous. I’d really like to attend, but it’s pricey and I’ve been caught in the downsizing frenzy.

  2. Bill Peschel Says:

    Welcome back! And I’m looking forward to finding out more about the convention.
    null

  3. Maxine Says:

    Yes, welcome back! It’s been too long. Lovely to read your characteristically upfront and unspun account – I often hear about the more sciencey end of these conferences so your perspective is particularly fresh (and funny)! More, soon, please.null

    Note from The Wicked Witch of Publishing(TM): Thanks for dropping by again, Maxine. I’ve just been so busy the past few weeks that blogging has fallen by the wayside. I’m back, I think!

  4. Brother Rene Says:

    eBooks or paper books, none of them will last forever.

    Forgive me Lynne, but here in the cloister I’m not allowed to have a blog of my own. So, I’m using your subject matter (eBooks & the death of the paper book) and your informed blog to escape the silence and rant a little.

    Most of today’s paper books are printed on rather inexpensive biodegradable paper using petroleum or soy inks. The bindings are soft and the glue is weak. They’re not made to last even part of a millennium let alone for the millennia. Remember the great libraries of Persia? They disappeared

    E-books are no better. If only published electronically what device will they be read on a thousand years from now? What if there is a catastrophic event, natural or man made, and electronic knowledge is wiped from the earth? No hardware, no software, no nothing. Where will the survivors (and there always are some) go to learn.

    My professional predecessors (monastic scribes), working alone in their screened carrels within the scriptorium, spent their entire lifetimes copying all of the major works of Western European and Islamic knowledge and (censored) scientific data available to them.

    Because of its longer projected lifespan animal skins such as parchment and vellum replaced the less stable (and cheaper) papyrus as the writing medium of choice. Permanent ink was a careful mixture of Oak Gall, copperas and gum Arabic. This combination has lasted amazingly well for over 800 years. And, if your lingua franca includes Medieval Latin there are still tens-of-thousands of pages out there to be read if you can find them. (Think hidden in caves.)

    You may want to become (like me) a proponent for putting all important works (sorry, “The Cure for Jet Lag” doesn’t qualify) on more stable substrates than paper, parchment, vellum or digits.

    The first man made objects to leave the solar system, the two Pioneer spacecrafts contained a 6” x 9”plaque of gold-anodized aluminum, telling our friends out there who we were. This gold plated approach is far too expensive for this monumental project.

    As the informed businessman said to Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) in the 1967 film “The Graduate”, “I just want to say one word to you, just one word- PLASTICS. “

    I’m sure that the right plastic (they tell us it will be here forever) properly embossed, would provide the perfect (cheap) material for recording all of our important works. And, all of the world’s accumulated knowledge could probably be accomplished for less than the cost of the war in Iraq. Put it all in a cave and deeply carve directions to the site on various stone outcroppings throughout the world. Then sit back a couple of thousand years and wait.

    Books are nice, the Kindle is cute and computers are great, but we need to store our knowledge on something permanent.

    Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing(TM): Nice crack, Bro, about my book. Sniff, sniff.

  5. Morris Rosenthal Says:

    Lynne,

    Great meeting you in person. My read of the grown-ups at the show (ie, people making a living publishing books) was that all the honor system and business-by-donation speakers left them cold. But I also had an epiphany on filling out the post-conference questionnaire and seeing the questions on inspiration. It never crossed my mind that people might take three days out of their lives and go to a publishing conference in hopes of being inspired, but that does sem to be a large part of what O’Reilly is hoping to do with TOC. Maybe it works for employees who are locked up in cubicles all day, not my background so I can’t say.

    Morris

    Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing(TM): Hi, Morris! I couldn’t believe that familiar voice at the table behind me in the Media Room was actually you! And you look just like that guy in your Web site videos.

    I agree that there was a lot of silent skepticism among the attendees regarding FREE and HONOR SYSTEM. The phrase “There is no honor among thieves” comes to mind! Actually, when I filled out the TOC2009 questionnaire, I suggested that future TOCs should include a good brawl or two. We’re all too polite.

  6. Bonnie Calhoun Says:

    The seminar sounded great, and like you said, it’s a good place to network.

    Digital books and digital magazines like mine are the wave of the future. The economy has not even bottomed out yet, and cost needs to be reduced on every level just for survival’s sake. For example, if I had to do a print version of our 50+ page magazine, I could never afford to do it.

    Book publishers are thinking the same thing.

    Nothing lasts forever…even burned DVD’s and CD’s have a shelf life. Hey *snort-giggle*, even I’m not going to last forever. Thirty years ago the mediums in use were high tech compared to what we had fifty years ago.

    Who knows…in fifteen years maybe we’ll be imprinting stuff inside crystals like StarTrek :-)

    As a publisher do you stick with just publishing seminars or do you go to book conferences like ThrillerFest at the Grand Hyatt in July?

    Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing(TM): Hi, Bonnie. Welcome back. I think we are in a real downward spiral in publishing. As one speaker at TOC remarked, there is tremendous price pressure (downward) when you have to compete with Kindle’s $9.99 downloads and low priced “Used & New” books on Amazon and B&N Web sites.

    I’ll think about ThrillerFest, though NYC in July can be awful!

  7. Dave Newton Says:

    Yes, tell us more, because you tell the truth so well.

    In the 60s, the rebels were shouting for free speech. The Web geniuses like Cory D. are writing code, and most of their products are dedicated to “aggregation” — sucking in and republishing. “Content” is what costs money to produce. The idea is to start a business that sucks in everybody else’s “content.” Luckily, the Web content people, like the NYTimes, for instance, are starting, timidly, to talk in low tones about charging readers to read what they write and publish. As a hopeful Web publisher myself, I’m thinking about it myself. What have I got to lose. The aggregators “promoting” my content by republishing it. What a shame that would be.

    Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing(TM): I know, Dave. The aggregators never want to pay. I actually emailed the founder of a major publishing aggregation site after I found my ENTIRE Web site and every posting had been picked up. I suggested she either truncate the postings and drive traffic to my site or pay. Not interested in paying anything at all. As I think about it, I have to address this issue again. Should we participate in aggregation sites if we don’t get paid? I’m thinking no. We build traffic for the aggregator who in turn makes money off ads on the site.

  8. Andrew Savikas Says:

    Hi Lynne,

    I’m thrilled you enjoyed the conference, and even more thrilled you’ve shared your experience with others on your blog. The amount of conversation that spilled out of the conference halls and onto twitter and the wider Web is what inspires us!

    The crux of Cory’s keynote from where I was sitting was that publishers should demand the option to sell their works without DRM. For example, we at O’Reilly have years of sales data on dozens of titles demonstrating that neither selling without DRM nor even explicitly posting book content for free negatively affects our print sales (and more often actually improves them). That said, I recognize that’s a choice (as it should be) for each publisher to make on their own — provided the device maker or sales channel gives them that choice.

    If you’d like to learn more about what’s behind our perspective on the issue, see Tim O’Reilly’s seminal Piracy is Progressive Taxation.

    Thanks again for the feedback, we really do pay attention to it. See you next year!

  9. Karen Hill Says:

    Great meeting you at TOC!

    The ideas around “free content” are far from finalized, and I agree with the huge number of speakers that DRM isn’t the answer to prevent theft– it may actually encourage it. What depresses me is that this theft is considered morally okay because it’s digital– can you imagine (as a colleague once said)– strolling into the local bookstore and taking a book off the shelf and walking out? Of course not– it’s just that the container for the content is “invisible” as digital that this gets excused and generally accepted.

    But we cannot rage against the internet storm on this one. I think the answer lies not in DRM, but in pricing the content to match the convenience– very much the iTunes model where buying the content is more convenient than the effort to download free. Sure, the student with more time than money may still make that effort, but they always did– we called it copying tapes or borrowing from friends.

    Another comment that got me thinking was Tim O’Reilly’s, the idea of the book as a souvenir. There are a lot of possibilities in that word. I need to think more about how this would work in the academic publishing world.

    Cheers!

  10. DMcCunney Says:

    Oh, dear. Rage against Cory Doctorow all you want, but he’s right: DRM is a problem, not a solution.

    First, it *doesn’t* protect you. Any DRM scheme is likely to be cracked about a day after it is released, and your precious material will appear in various illicit areas, ready for the taking. At least, you *hope* so. And why should you do that? Because it means someone cared enough about your stuff to *bother*.

    Second, it provides an annoyance for your readers. The more effective the DRM is, the more annoying it will be. Pretty soon, you annoy the reader enough that they don’t buy.

    Let’s get serious about the problem. Exactly how much money have you lost to piracy? I’ll bet right now you don’t *know*, and you *can’t* know, because there is no way to tell. If you think you are losing a lot of money to piracy, I’m sorry, but it may be wishful thinking. The vast majority of authors would *like* to be so popular that people will make a point of pirating their books.

    Theft will always be with us. The retail trade calls it “shrinkage”, as does what it can to minimize it, but it’s an annoyance, not a disaster.

    Instead of draconian measures to prevent theft, you are better advised to concentrate in increasing your *sales*. Provide real value for the money, price appropriately, and make it *as easy as possible* for the reader to give you money. The majority of the market will pay for value. Your challenge is to *provide* value, let the reader know that you exist and have stuff they will want to buy, and provide a simple means for them to do so.

    Remember, you are competing for the reader’s discretionary *time*. The time they spend reading a book is time they could be spending doing any number of other things for fun. Your challenge is making reading your books preferable to watching TV, seeing a film, playing a game, or any of the other things people do for recreation.

    I fear that the majority of authors who complain about piracy of their works as the reason for low income really need to consider the alternative: maybe they just haven’t written books that enough people want to read.

    Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing(TM): Thanks for stopping by Dennis, and for taking the time to leave a comment. Personally, I have not lost a dime through stolen digital files. Why? Because I don’t intend to expose the entire book online. I did just put up a digital file of the jacket, front matter (testimonials & acknowledgments), and table of contents. We’ll see if that helps increase sales of the print version. I’m not sure 1% of the market is motivation enough for me to throw the entire book up. I do have a PDF ready to sell if and when I get ready. [Dennis is a Linux Adminstrator at The Feed Room.]

  11. Mark Says:

    Hi Lynne,

    I just discovered your blog. I am sorry we didn’t meet at TOC09. Maybe next year.

    As a conversation starter I wanted to run down my understanding of DRM. What I got out of Cory’s speech was that DRM is anti-consumer, not anti-creator. To extend your analogy… the lock on the door at Cory’s apartment isn’t keeping anyone from stealing his TV — the lock on the door is keeping him (the owner of the TV) from watching it.

    As a creator I want to be paid like everyone else, but as a consumer I resent when someone sells something to me and I find out later it is only a rental.

    I look forward to following your blog.
    Best regards….
    ~mb

  12. Peter L. Winkler Says:

    As for ebooks, there should be a universal, nonproprietary standard. Several years ago, I bought James Ellroy’s Breakneck Pace from Amazon in Microsoft Reader format. When I put a new hard drive in my laptop, the ebook was one of the files I backed up, but I didn’t bother with Microsoft Reader itself. I figured I’d just download a copy from Microsoft’s site.

    New hard drive goes in. Files restored. I download and activate MS Reader and try to open Breakneck Pace. No go. I try everything, including some hacker-developed programs for cracking .lit files. No go.

    The ebook is lost to me. It wasn’t available in a paper edition, and the ebook itself isn’t available anymore, even if I wanted to pay a second time.

  13. Andrew Malkin Says:

    Lynne,
    I share your frustration with the Kindle too and its paltry battery life. Of course, every author I know who owns one is rhapsodic and a heavy user.
    This was my first TOC (largely because price was high) and I was on a panel so granted a pass. I wish there was more participation outside of Harlequin and Wiley, though both are doing an excellent job paving the way. I was on a panel with Chelsea Green to show successes in practice when it comes to publishers going from 0 to 60 with digital. Unfortunately, there was too much to cover with 4 of us and only 45 minutes so we didn’t even get to questions…
    If you want to see a brawl, get Amazon and publishers to talk about pricing of e-books (though not legal so couldn’t happen)…That storm has been brewing for some time as more backlist titles get digitized and offered up for under $10 a pop…
    Two other closing comments–food at lunch was surprisingly good as was my new friends who sat down to join me and Gavin Bell’s talk about The Long Tail and Community was provocative and well-done. I look forward to revisiting some of the presentations online.

  14. Sridhar Balan Says:

    Welcome back, Lynne, to the world of blogging. ‘Smart Women Read EBooks, and Even Smarter Women own a Kindle’.

    Poor Sara, Shw used to own a Kindle in very early days till she left it behind on a cab seat. In spite of broad hints, no one thought of replacing it for her and now, the downward spiral of PW. She was one of the best things that happened to PW. But I digress.

    Thanks for the report on TOC. DRM is here to stay as long as there is a an ebook. There will be improved versions of the Kindle with better battery back-up etc. The central issue is, will E-readers help us to tap into a new readership? The younger generation geeks who are into gadgetry?
    Epstein’s Expresso Book Machine is certainly awesome. If this gains wide acceptance, especially in the era of POD, what will happen to all the skills that we learn’t during a hard, long, grind? Setting, layout, design, quality of paper, not to mention editing and rounds of proof-reading? TOC for Publishing 2009 showed us a glimpse of the future. For some of us, it may not have been a very happy glimpse.

    My central worry is that, this future may be used by the ungodly to make more people redundant in this time of the global meltdown.

    Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing(TM): I agree, Sridhar, that Sara was shamelessly hinting at receiving a new Kindle when she was a keynote last year at TOC. Actually, I found it funny!
    Sara Nelson was not managed properly at PW. She should have been “turned loose” to say what she wanted to say and to say what needed to be said about publishing. Publishers (the sales side) don’t get it. They worry about lack of ad revenue if someone like Sara stands up and speaks her mind. IF Sara Nelson had been allowed to do that, I believe PW would have been turned around. Instead it is nosediving.

  15. Warren Adler Says:

    Lynne:

    I have been involved in digital books for more than a dozen years, convinced that the future was in digitalization waiting for just the right reader friendly devices to emerge. They have at last. I had all of my previous 30 books published by major houses reverted and digitalized years ago to insure that they will never go out of print at the whim of the publisher and preserve my authorial name in cyberspace.

    While I am a true and loyal friend of the paper book, one ignores the march of technology at our peril. It is inevitable that the paper book is passing from our lives and for awhile we will mourn its passing. Nevertheless, it is not the delivery system but the content that remains intact. That is what we writers do, create content in what is essentially a one on one communication system. Yes, we are going to wind up as e-book readers. As long as great content survives, don’t despair. I have written numerous articles over the years on this subject.

    Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing(TM): Warren is the author of 30 books including novels such as The War of the Roses and Random Hearts, and short story collections such as The Sunset Gang. He is also a playwright.

  16. Joe Clark Says:

    DRM does not prevent “people” from “steal[ing]” a book. It is useless at that task. Or do you know something everybody else doesn’t?

    I don’t see how authors’ autistic-like desires to do nothing but sit in a cave and write, rather than also aggressively promote their work, provides a licence to their publishers to bolt DRM onto electronic texts – in most cases without the author’s consent, either.

    You also seem to be wilfully ignoring the evidence that giving away electronic books does nothing to harm print-book sales. Doctorow isn’t the only example; I’m another one. The example you provided – of a filmmaker – is irrelevant.

    Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing(TM): If you say so, Joe!

  17. Andy O'Hara Says:

    I guess it’s time to throw away my eight-track tapes?

    This all makes for great cocktail discussion, but the truth is that physical books will always sit on shelves and libraries will hand them out for free and someone will sing someone’s songs for a paying audience without the author’s permission.

    When you hear about someone “stealing” your work, you can always turn that million-dollar team of lawyers you have loose on them.

    Widgits and gadgets will come and go like lava lamps. Impermanent, at best.

    As the saying goes, keep the daytime job and be glad people are reading your writing. If it’s truly of value, it will make money regardless of “theft.”

  18. Wicked Witch of Publishing Says:

    Today, in Op-Ed section of the February 25, 2009 edition of The New York Times, Roy Blout, Jr., President of the Authors Guild, writes:

    “The Kindle 2 is a portable, wireless, paperback-size device onto which people can download a virtual library of digitalized titles. Amazon sells these downloads, and where the books are under copyright, it pays royalties to the authors and publishers.

    Serves readers, pays writers: so far, so good. But there’s another thing about Kindle 2 — its heavily marketed text-to-speech function. Kindle 2 can read books aloud. And Kindle 2 is not paying anyone for audio rights.

    (Excerpt from “The Kindle Swindle?”)

  19. Wicked Witch of Publishing Says:

    Over at Boing Boing Cory Doctorow tries to make Roy Blout look like an idiot for his Op-Ed re the Kindle and the audio capability for which authors do not receive an extra royalty. Gum flapping, hairsplitting, doubletalking Cory Doctorow does not disappoint. He used to infuriate me. Now I find him hilarious.

  20. Iskra Johnson Says:

    This blog and commentary is absolutely fascinating. I have been looking for these kinds of discussions. As someone whose livelihood and career have been involved with book jackets for nearly three decades I have a vested interest in the paper book. I have tried to start discussions on a couple of forums about what will happen to the book jacket in the age of Kindle, with no takers. I’d love peoples’ input on that. Where will the visual presence of a book live? Covers have always sold books. Now will the entire sales pitch live online on Amazon? Will you, ironically, have to have a computer to know about or find books? How will the “unwashed (technologically illiterate) masses” without access (and there are still millions of them) even encounter literature or other forms of the book?

    I agree heartily with the brother (are you a monastic?) at the beginning of this post that archives and continuity are at stake. In a few years nothing will be readable on the next generation of devices. I see that as a huge problem for the history of civilization.

    An issue rarely addressed when it comes to information theft and rights is the paradigm shift embedded in this way of thinking: technology is driving ethics and in the new ethic cultural work is now by definition “amateur.” Creative work becomes just “information” that anyone can create and anyone should have “access” to. Yet someone will be making money, and it is very unlikely to be the actual creator of the work. Amazon may manage to increase its profits with tens of thousands of discounted barely used books that are available two minutes after the new work is published, but at the expense of the author and the publisher.

  21. David Zethmayr Says:

    “The Age of Kindle?” Not hardly, folks. The great unwashed are not technologically illiterate, they are simply not in Kindle-Sony-Samsung’s market because they will never have the three smackers to plunk down for one in preference to a Wii or other game system.

    That this seems to have escaped the attention of this thread is eloquent evidence of a two-class chasm that has now opened so wide nobody can see across it except from the underclass rim, through television. The got-bucks still don’t shop at Wal-Mart, even to go slumming. When they cross that bridge they’re officially the notgot-bucks, having also lost their health “insurance,” including the ridiculous Cobra sop. US society is slamming itself even harder into radical polarization with this new depression, and real books–paper, that is–and communitiy libraries and independent bookstores (no UPC’s beyond Bookland EAN barcodes) are the main hope for a long-term remedy: “Since there were books, no night is completely dark.”

    Kindle is just not the incendiary spark people seem to fear it is, because the price of the hardware and the wireless bandwidth will never be right. It’s a gotbucks toy, and that class is shrinking fast. –DZ

    Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing (TM): David, thanks so much for leaving such a great comment. I had been thinking about that “chasm” between the haves-and-have-nots and the Kindle. What you are forgetting is that the Kindle, et al, will drop dramatically in price and be available to almost everybody — sooner, probably than later. I think we are all just beta testing right now.

    Agree . . . even a little?

  22. John Royce Says:

    “the grown-ups at the show (ie, people making a living publishing books)”

    “authors’ autistic-like desires to do nothing but sit in a cave and write”

    My Little Rant

    Maybe in the new millenium after the “grown-ups” have been reschooled on what liberalism actually is and why it keep us out of the caves that “autistic-like authors” crave to sit in … the survivors will learn not to sneer and spit upon those different from themselves. Here’s hoping.

    As for Kindle, it is a derivative tool that may well be representative of a new generation of reading devices, and that to me seems exciting. But books themselves represent a very highly evolved technology. It is the irony of our recent times that so many clutched feverishly to a mythical past while simultaneously dismissing previous human accomplishments as relics waiting only for our modern gizmo touch to give them tinseled perfection.

    I’m one of those cave-dwelling writers who once blinked in the glare of wisdom shining from my grown-up marketing betters. Then I realized that the advent of a new scalable dynamic environment of making books (POD) had dawned with the “grown-up” response being to join hands and sneer.

    I now tend to see the Corporatized Publishing Monstrosities as sinking but oh-so-grown-up Brontosauruses smugly clearing their nostrils at the scent of the scurrying mammals flitting around the water’s edge. That’s okay, we furry critters will be just fine.

    Post more often if you can, Lynne. You have the credibility to speak to the new world, Ms. Witch! You were out of the dino pool early…

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