By Pat Browning
What got my attention was an online New York Times article with a bold headline: Print Books are Target of Pirates on the Web. The bylined article by Motoko Rich sheds light on the proliferation of copyrighted books showing up for unauthorized downloads. Rich quotes general counsel for John Wiley & Sons, which issues the “Dummies” series, as saying the company employs three full-time staff members “to trawl for unauthorized copies.”
I tried repeatedly to get an URL for that article but it hung up my computer every time. My suggestion is that you go to www.nytimes.com and in the search box type in “Print Books Target of Pirates.” You may have to register, but registration is free, and the article is worth the trouble.
The article quotes Stephen King as saying that tracking down illegal e-books is not worth the time and energy. On the other hand Rich quotes Harlan Ellison, who pursues the pirates, as saying, “I don’t ask to get rich off this stuff. I just ask to be paid.”
Perhaps the telling comment comes from NYT best-seller Cory Doctorow, who offers free e-versions of his books the same day they are published in hardcover. Quote: “I really feel like my problem isn’t piracy. It’s obscurity.”
The article makes reference to Scribd, a new web site where you can upload/download books, magazine, newspapers, term papers, whatever’s in print. Writers and/or publisher can upload works for free, or charge for them. It’s also a social networking site – a little something for everyone there.
I accessed www.scribd.com and registered. Took about 45 seconds. The new site is a mess, actually, like an Old World bazaar, or a New World yard sale. I clicked on Books, then Fiction, and up popped Barry Eisler’s new book, FAULT LINE, published by Ballantine/Random House Publishing Group. I downloaded it free of charge.
It’s an espionage thriller, not exactly my cup of tea, but hey – I got it for nothing. At the very least I’m taking a look at an author I would never have picked up in hardcover.
I looked up Eisler and found myself reading his guest post on M.J. Rose’s blog. His post, “Dead Trees Is A Dead Model,” is a dandy. Among many other things he says:
The only thing keeping paper books going as a mass market today is inertia. But as older generations die out and younger ones come online, and as generations in the middle try ebooks and realize their advantages, the demise of paper books will continue to accelerate.
That's an important point: the marginalization of paper books won't continue at its current rate. It'll pick up speed until it hits a tipping point, and then -- poof! -- the only paper books published will be coffee table books and other niche forms that serve a unique (and relatively small) market.
How soon? Look at the reviews Amazon's latest Kindle is getting. Listen to people who use one … And look at the way publishers are trying to maintain their traditional market: they're using increasingly cheap paper, essentially trying to compete on price against a medium with zero costs of paper, ink, warehousing, and distribution.
The fact that paper publishers are even trying to wage this battle on the electronic medium's terms is evidence of how soon and how badly they're going to lose it.
That's another URL that eluded me but you can reach it through Eisler's web site at www.barryeisler.com/. Scroll down. On the left there's a link under New Article -Dead Trees Is A Dead Model.
Back at Scribd I found Robert Gregory Browne’s two thrillers, KISS HER GOODBYE and WHISPER IN THE DARK. Browne is published by St. Martin’s but he posted his own work – just an excerpt in each case, 16 and 27 pages respectively. I downloaded both, and wish I had the entire books. I like his writing.
Browne has two excellent web sites: www.robertgregorybrowne.com and a writing web site at www.castingthebones.com. He offers good advice, plus a couple of free downloads – How To Format Your Screenplay Like A Pro, and www.openoffice.org, which he uses for word processing.
Back at Scribd again, I found another free book, MURDER IN MARSHALL’S BAYOU by S.H. Baker. This is part romance, part mystery, set in 1924 Louisiana, and it’s a comfort read published by Zumaya Enigma, a small press in Austin, Texas.
It has a literary feel and the kind of languid grace southern novels are noted for. The writing lowers my blood pressure: “The sound of the Gulf, closer than usual, drowned out the songs of all the night creatures except an occasional alligator.”
S.H. Baker is Sarah H. Baker, who also writes as Sarah Storme and has a bio as colorful as her writing. Her web site is at www.sarahstorme.com.
So, over the course of this week I discovered three new authors and their books without leaving my computer. Downloads at Scribd are suitable for various e-readers, plus the .pdf format. I don't have an e-reader but the .pdf format works beautifully.
I spent a lot of time. Every link led to something else and I’m the world’s most curious person. Browsing through an old-fashioned bricks and mortar bookstore takes a certain amount of patience. Browsing through the online bookstore of the future takes even more patience. There are so many buttons, so many hot links, to lead you into other places.
The rewards are many. The Internet is truly the master library. The Internet opens up the world.