My Life

Ebooks, DRM, Social Networks and Making a Living as Writer in the Future Now

I’ve read several articles recently on eBooks and how they are/are not changing the industry. Most recently at the DRM news I viewed a solid summary of the situation from a consumer’s point of view and felt I’d add a few more points to the argument, as a reader and writer.

Digital Rights Management and Competing Formats

When I bought my first handheld computer (PDA) I immediately started downloading various book readers. I soon gravitated towards mobipocket and bought hundreds of dollars worth of novels through Fictionwise.

And then I realized that I would never be able to read the vast majority of these on any other device! They used a proprietary format and had DRM on them.

I still have that PDA and I am still reading through the novels I bought then, on it. Not any of the newer, shinier devices I’ve acquired since.

That sucks.

My point here though is that as soon as I realized the potential of reading books on a digital device — huge convenience, portability, annotations, et cetera — I stopped buying print books. That was several years ago — I used to buy a couple dozen a year. That stopped (see ‘social networks’, below, for a few exceptions).

But now I don’t buy ebooks either because I don’t want to end up with content that will only be readable on one or two devices. I want to know I will have access to that content forever. If I can’t I won’t buy it.

I am stalled as a book buyer now. That money does not go into the book industry now because of DRM and too many ‘types’ of ebooks.

Without DRM how do we make money

I heard this silly argument far too often in the gaming industry: without DRM people will pirate our stuff.

That was completely wrong. The more correct statement is: “No matter what you do people will pirate your stuff.”

You can’t stop it. Once something is in a digital format, it will be taken, even if not given. Not matter how tightly locked up it is, it will be broken.

Cory Doctorow (co-editor of Boing Boing), is an activist for open rights, puts all of his work online under the Creative Commons banner, allowing people to read what they want. His science fiction novels are available as print books too and published by major publishers. He makes a living.

He’s not giving away his work for ‘free’. He’s simply putting it out there, which gets word of his writing out to a wider audience without hassling potential readers with DRM restrictions or other nonsense. These actions aren’t foolish or naive — he’s recognized that the economic system for writing is changing. And he’s tapping into it.

Social Networks and the future

In a previous post I talked about how guilt compels me to support people I know, even indirectly through social networking.

Well, above, I mentioned that I stopped buying print books. That’s kind of a (small) lie. See I do occasionally buy print books.

Here’s the last few and why I bought them

  • Druids – Barbara Galler-Smith and Josh Langston. Barbara is an editor at On Spec (she edited my story ‘From the Sea’). She was at the latest On Spec reading — which I learned about through email and Facebook — and since the bookstore we were at had a copy of her book I bought it and got her to sign it.
  • Women of the Apocalypse – Three of the four writers in this anthology friended me on Facebook! I bought the anthology — and it was very good, won a couple of Aurora Awards.
  • Rage of the Behemoth – Black Gate’s blog mentioned a deal wherein readers received a rebate on this anthology if bought in tandum with a Black Gate subscription. Bought. This was also promoted on Facebook.
  • The Anthology Project – A variety of authors created this interesting anthology of comic strips. Learned about it on Facebook. Bought.
  • Reflections on the Dawn of Conciousness. Robert J Sawyer mentioned this book on his blog and I went and purchased it.
  • Mythic Delirium #20 – Bought this single issue of science fiction poetry because Mike Allen, the editor, blogged about it… a lot. That it includes poetry by Neil Gaiman helped a bit too :)

Only one bookstore purchase and all purchases heavily influenced by the people in my social networks. (Note: I don’t buy anything physical without researching it online first, this isn’t just a books thing anymore).

More and more the people I ‘know’, direct me to the content I will read.

Links Mentioned

Aurora Awards, On Spec, Black Gate, Robert J. Sawyer, Fictionwise

Former lead designer at BioWare (Dragon Age: Origins, Neverwinter Nights). Creator of Raiders of the Serpent Sea.

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