In which publishers and sellers alike seem to be on the verge of losing their minds.

kindle2iFirst off, let me just say that I’ve been reading ebooks since 1994. They’re not new. This whole ebook thing has been coming for a long, long time, and I can’t figure out why the big book publishers can’t figure out how to monetize ebooks without acting like morons.

Second off, I’ve been buying ebooks for a long time too, and I’ve read a lot of ebooks on a lot of platforms. Those are my creds as an ebook reader, so I kinda know what I’m talking about here, from a customer’s point of view. Seriously, I only know one person who has been reading ebooks as long as I have (this means you, NLW).

Third off, what the fuck is going on over at Amazon? They’ve pulled literally every Macmillan title due to some kind of “pricing dispute.” Apparently, Macmillan, after learning that the Apple ebook store will let them charge more than $9.99 per title, has decided that Amazon should do the same. Since Amazon sells virtually all of its ebooks at the $9.99 pricepoint, they pulled the Macmillan titles! (My beloved Tor is a Macmillan imprint, BTW.) It’s a freakin’ mess, and you know who’s getting hurt?

The authors. Because their BOOKS AREN’T SELLING.

A lot of treeware publishers are doing a terrible job embracing the ebook format. They’re running around carrying on about DRM and sounding like idiot RIAA executives from the 90’s. It’s a mess. They should all go read Eric Flint’s brilliant argument for loss leaders and against DRM, written a decade ago, posted at the Baen Free Library.

Here are some truths:


1. I have never given anyone an ebook that I have purchased. NEVER. Not once. (Well, maybe once or twice, but if so I don’t remember it.) But if I wanted to give someone an ebook, the file format wouldn’t matter – any secure format can be broken. Back when the iTunes store was still selling music with DRM, all you had to do to break it was burn your songs to disc and then rip them back into your library! Duh! I have software on my computer right now that will break DRM on music, video, and certain ebook formats. Why? Because sometimes I want to use my content on hardware other than the hardware the seller wants me to use it on. Since I PAID FOR IT, I feel completely fine about breaking the DRM for my own ends, just as I feel fine tearing a blank page out of a treeware book to write a note on.

2. I’ve read absurd projections by some publishers; they claim they would lose a huge amount of money if they distributed new book releases in non-secure ebook format. WTF, over? They sound just like the record companies. I can’t believe these people didn’t pay attention to electronic formats in the music industry! Where the hell were they? Yes, some content gets pirated, but so what? It’s free advertisement! A truly heartening percentage of the ebook reading public is made up of moral people who will, if they can, pay for things they’ve enjoyed. Piracy does not “lose” you money. You can’t lose money you never had in the first place.

3. And, as they say so well over at Baen, loss leaders WORK. If you have a trilogy, give the first book away for free in ebook format. It’s cheap because all you have to do is format it once and host it; there are no manufacturing costs involved. You’ll find (if the book doesn’t suck) that the entire trilogy’s sales will increase: win/win for publisher and author.

Hey big publishers, the electronics are coming! You gotta get ready! It used to be a sub-market of weirdos like me with rare hardware, but now we’ve got the Kindle and the iPad and by the end of this decade the ebook format is going to be ubiquitous. You need to figure this out tout de suite. You are going to have to embrace the ebook format. You are going to have to take a smaller cut on electronic books, and you are going to have to change your product release cycle to quit holding ebook versions for ten months and then overcharging for them.

We, your audience, know perfectly well that the cost of producing a treeware book is SIGNIFICANTLY LARGER than the cost of releasing an ebook, and it pisses us off when you set ebook price points at hardcover levels. (I didn’t buy the a particular Guy Gavriel Kay book for over five years because it was nearly thirty bucks. THIRTY BUCKS FOR AN EBOOK? I waited until it came down to proper ebook range before I bought it.) It also pisses us off when we learn that between you and the ebook vendor, authors are making pennies off of ebooks – that’s why we buy them, when we can, directly from the author’s website, or from ebook sellers who are known to pay higher percentages.

With the paper, printing, and shipping out of the equation, all a publisher does is select, edit, and promote. That pretty much makes you an agent, which lowers your take pretty significantly. Which is okay, because the book market is huge. Readers tend to read a lot, and ebook readers will continue to make it easier and easier to read (and buy) a lot of content.

You have got to change.

Please, do it more gracefully than the music industry did, mmm’kay? You need to get ebooks to market alongside the treeware versions, and yes, you have to charge less for them. You have to select industry-standard formats; don’t bring yet another format to the table because there are already dozens. Forget about stupid DRM, too, because it DOESN’T DO ANYTHING BUT ANNOY EVERYONE. Design and implement appropriate sales tracking, so that you can see for yourself that ebooks can actually increase treeware sales. (Look at Cory Doctorow! He releases all his books in ebook format… for free! And he’s a success. Go figure!)

Believe me. This doesn’t have to be scary, and you don’t have to look stupid. Mellow out, there, big fellas. It’ll be okay.

In which I’m still boring and you shouldn’t even be reading this.

My new 120Gb hard drive arrived yesterday. I got it so cheap I can hardly stand myself! It came in an envelope instead of a box… I’d forgotten how tiny laptop drives are. It’s still sitting in its anti-static container, waiting to be installed tomorrow.

I bought an AC adapter for this little hard drive enclosure I rescued from the trash back in Iowa. Maybe it’ll work, maybe I’ll end up with a six-dollar adapter that I have no need for. Who knows. It would be cool though if I could put my old hard drive in it and have it work, because it’s small and has a cute little carrying case.

Today I bought an ebook for my 1150. I love that thing. (The reader, not the book. (Well, I’ll probably love the book too since it’s second of a series and I loved the first one, but I was talking about the reader.))

Hmm. What else? Well, I’m freakin’ tired. I’ve been complaining about having to work full-time, so just to kick my ass the universe suddenly causes me to find myself working overtime. Not only that, but instead of getting up at ten like I normally do, I set my alarm for 7:30 and then Bindu woke me up at six because she needed to go outside. She’s a good dog and I’d rather have her wake me than make a mess, but suddenly getting up four hours early hurts my head.

I’m supposed to go out tonight and see the Coyote Kings play, but I might just blow it off and stay home. I could probably manage to be social for a couple of hours, but I just don’t think I can stay awake until two or three when I could get a ride home from one of the musicians.

I need my own damn car so I don’t have to depend on others for rides.

In which I had no idea what time it was.

eBook ReaderYesterday I got my new gadget, my eBookwise ebook reader.

It’s so cute! And so far I’m giving it a total thumbs up (although I already have a list of things I want in the next OS update, like: font face changeability, categories, and an ‘undo’ function for markups). Both of my favorite ebook vendors (Fictionwise and Baen) offer books in the proper format for it, so I’ve been able to pack the thing full of stuff to read. Besides Rocket eBook formatted files, it’ll display HTML, .doc, and text files too.

Instead of having a local book-managing application (though there is one available for about $15), the device syncs with an online bookshelf at You can buy content from there or upload your own. The reader device has a built-in modem for direct dial-up connectivity, or a USB port so you can use your computer’s connection to the Internet.

There’s no way to organize books into reading lists or categories, which would get extremely unwieldy if there were like 200 books on it, but I think the idea is to keep the bulk of one’s library online and only current books on the reader itself.

It’s a little heavy at a tad over a pound, but that’s because the batteries are huge. It ran for 15 hours on a 3-hour charge, so that little bit of extra weight is worth it. The screen is backlit, glare-free and easy to read. The device is juuuust a tiny bit too big to fit into my coat pocket, but it came with its own cover so it doesn’t get banged up in my bag.

There’s a rotate screen option so I can be left-handed, but then of course the stylus ends up on the bottom and all the icons on the case are upside down. But at least there is a left-handed option.

The only glitch is that the 64Mb expansion card failed after about 2 hours. I got the device, registered it, connected it to my computer via USB and put books on it, then put it away. During my lunch hour I reconnected it to download a couple of books I’d just bought, but the device froze so I disconnected it and stuck a paper clip in the reset divot per the manual. Since then, the device hasn’t recognized the memory card. (I have an open trouble ticket with the OEM; they sent me some instructions with all kinds of groovy ‘hold this while pressing this’ voodoo I’ll have to try when I get home.)

Naturally I stayed up late last night reading, and I woke up early this morning for no apparent reason. When I saw my new toy lying beside the bed naturally I picked it up and started reading rather than going back to sleep. Unfortunately, I’d set its clock wrong, so when I thought it was 9:30 this morning, it was actually 10:30… when I went to connect the ebook reader to my laptop and was downloading more books (I’ve been rereading old sci-fi shorts), was startled by the time: it was 11:23 already! EGAD! The bus comes at 11:35 and it’s 2-1/2 blocks away!

I brushed my hair, got dressed, brushed my teeth, and made it to the bus on time.

Because I? Am superfast. Like, once or twice a year. Just to prove that I can.

Update: The fix I got from the OEM worked – I had to reformat the card and now it’s all good. Yay!