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Links 1 through 10 of 173 by Paul Raven tagged publishing

"The infrastructure of publishing constrains the thinking of writers. Obviously, all forms of art and design have some inherent constraints-but it seems to me that writers are especially misled by the apparent freedoms of language. Published language, in print, on paper, is not language per se: It’s an industrial artifact.

Writers cling hard to the word, to semantics, to meaning and sensibility. Design, by contrast, is less verbal. Design is busily inventing new ways to blow itself apart. Design is taking more risks with itself than literature. That is why contemporary design feels almost up to date, while literature feels archaic and besieged." Bruce Sterling.

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"The problem [...] is that publishers bundle two sorts of value when they create a hardcover book: The physical product is more impressive, and you get earlier availability of the book, often a year or more before the paperback version comes out. Unfortunately, book buyers think most of the extra value they're paying for from a hardcover is the physical book. Meanwhile, publishers (and authors) often think the main value of a hardcover is early availability. Many authors and publishers don't want to say this to the public, but hardcover books are a tax on the most enthusiastic fans of an author.

E-publishing breaks that cozy little arrangement, by separating the early availability value from the better production value. Publishers couldn't figure out what to do about that in 2000. So they often did the conservative thing, pricing ebooks the same as hardcovers. To ebook customers, that felt like exploitation, if not outright fraud.

It still feels that way today."

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"About 6% of books in America are now printed on toner-based or inkjet machines—a rough proxy for print-on-demand (POD)—as opposed to on offset presses, estimates InterQuest, a market-research firm. Over the next five years, it predicts, this figure will increase to 15%. In 2008, the latest year for which data are available, about 285,000 titles were printed on demand or in short runs—132% more than in 2007 and for the first time more than in the conventional way. Amazon, the world’s biggest online bookseller, uses POD machines, although it does not reveal how often."

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"It all comes down to concepts of intellectual property, which are frankly a bit abstruse for most people who don’t need to spend their time worrying about such things. Even if you buy a Braun coffee maker, you don’t buy the rights to recreate it in your workshop and sell copies of the coffee maker. Except the process of copying a coffee maker is so tedious, that unless you own a Third World knockoff factory, you’re not going to bother.

Copying or scanning a print book is a possible behavior. Copying an ebook is a trivial behavior, at least technically.

But you, the reader, never take full title to the story underneath. You have taken a license to that story, a contract ultimately between you and the author, embedded in the copyright statement in the front matter of the book. And that license has value, whether it’s delivered on cellulose and ink, or via an organized compilation of electrons." Jay Lake.

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"From the point of view of Jeff Bezos' bank account, Amazon is the entire supply chain and should take that share of the cake that formerly went to both wholesalers and booksellers. They do this by buying wholesale and selling retail, taking up to a 70% discount from the publishers and selling for whatever they can get. Their stalking horse for this is the Kindle publishing platform; they're trying to in-source the publisher by asserting contractual terms that mean the publisher isn't merely selling them books wholesale, but is sublicencing the works to be republished via the Kindle publishing platform. Publishers sublicensing rights is SOP in the industry, but not normally handled this way -- and it allows Amazon to grab another chunk of the supply chain if they get away with it, turning the traditional publishers into vestigial editing/marketing appendages." Charlie Stross on the analysis tip.

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"I’m sure there have been a lot of underground magazines and things like that on the net. But I think there is much to be said from having an artifact that you can hold in your hands. That is perhaps a mark of the generation that I grew up in, but I believe it’s true. In an increasingly virtual world, artifacts, beautifully made things, are at a premium. We wanted to be able to bring out a magazine that wasn’t so ephemeral and transient, that people would want to keep."

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"Amazon and the Kindle have killed the bookstore. Why? Because people who buy 100 or 300 books a year are gone forever. The typical American buys just one book a year for pleasure. Those people are meaningless to a bookstore. It's the heavy users that matter, and now officially, as 2009 ends, they have abandoned the bookstore. It's over." A little previous, perhaps, but I think he's right.

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"A third group, though, is making the ‘access to literature’ argument without much real commitment to its truth or falsehood, because they aren’t actually worried about access to literature, they are worried about bookstores in and of themselves. This is a form of Burkean conservatism, in which the value built up over centuries in the existence of bookstores should be preserved, even though their previous function as the principal link between writers and readers is being displaced.

This sort of commitment to bookstores is a normative argument, an argument about how things ought to be. It is also an argument that might succeed, as long as it re-imagines what bookstores are for and how they are supported, rather than merely hoping that if enough nice people seem really concerned, the flow of time will reverse."

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"In order to draw customer into their stores, Target and Wal-Mart are making ten bestselling author's books available for under ten bucks. [...] The American Booksellers Association has even asked the Department of Justice to intervene. [...] But I'm also taken aback by the horrified response of the book industry. I thought the big crisis was that nobody reads. Now it turns out the problem is that books are so popular with the masses they're being used as bait to draw in shoppers.

Come on, guys, get your story straight! Which is it?"

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"There seems to be a frantic scramble in the book retail world to rush downmarket in order to compete with the challenges of Amazon, the supermarkets and next the ebook. Publishers have to fight their corner, year after year, against ever more aggressive demands for higher discounts from the chains, but seem at a loss to know how to cope with the underlying problems they face. They fear speaking out about how their books are being sold."

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