Monday, 31 March 2008

Another dilemma for publishers

As the title suggests, this is a follow up to my post about The Pirate's Dilemma. Somewhere amongst my Google Reader news feeds I happened to spot that today's Times has an article about book piracy.

Apparently, The Society of Authors has warned the publishing industry that as book piracy will only increase, it must make serious attempts to adapt to the challenge of digitisation sooner rather than later. Tracy Chevalier, author of 'Girl with a Face Like Scarlett Johansson', and chair of the society, said of traditional book publishing:

“It is a dam that’s cracking. We are trying to plug the holes with legislation and litigation but we need to think radically. We have to evolve and create a very different pay system, possibly by making the content available free to all and finding a way to get paid separately.”

She goes on to say that at present piracy is a problem more for authors of poetry, cookbooks, travel guides, short stories - "books that you dip in and out of." But sooner or later it will impact on everyone:

“For a while it will be great for readers because they will pay less and less but in the long run it’s going to ruin the information. People will stop writing. There’s a lot of ‘wait and see what the technology brings’ but the trouble is if you wait and see too long then it’s gone. That’s what happened to the music industry.”

Thankfully, the society's statement does at least seem to be more a call for pre-emptive action than an immediate cry for lifebelts, but still, it looks like I might have underestimated, yesterday, exactly how much piracy has already dented the hull of traditional publishing.

As for new ways to remunerate authors, even if "people will stop writing" is ridiculously alarmist, the future pay of authors is certainly as pressing an issue as that of in which medium exactly they might be published. Indeed, it's probably the same issue. We Tell Stories, the A Million Penguins wiki-novel, Penguin Remixed, etc. might have shown readers glimpses of the future, of how they might come to interact with fiction, but the images in the crystal ball seem even less clear for authors; at least where money is concerned.

As it happened, also popping up in the Times article was Scott Pack, from blogs-into-books publisher the Friday Project - funnily enough, this news wasn't mentioned at all. I guess Murdoch might be serious about acquiring his company after all, then...

Anyway, that's quite enough for today of stuff I've happened upon in my newsfeeds. I have things to be doing...

Next Monday: personal productivity tips.

Yep, getting things done, and all that.

You see, when Fiona first asked me to contribute to this blog, I came up with a couple of possible ideas for regular features:

On Friday afternoons - a selection of fun/interesting links that might help people accomplish that always pressing Friday afternoon task of 'finding stuff to look at on the internet'.

On Mondays - links and tips of the lifehacker, 43Folders, etc. type.

I figured the second would sort of balance out the first.

There was one drawback, though: I know next to nothing about, and am frankly a little dubious of all this life-hacking, personal productivity, time-management gubbins. Erm, having completely failed to get around to providing any links on Friday, though, maybe looking into it might not be such a bad idea.

If I get around to it...

Watch this space :)

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