Different viewpoints reign among writers about the issues raised in these articles, so please, weigh in—leave a comment expressing what you think about them!
First, a couple of things from Scott Turow, President of the Author's Guild, bestselling author of legal suspense novels, and attorney.
Slow Death of the American Author: Turow's article in the New York Times last week:
Among other points in the article, Turow says:
—a recent Supreme Court decision to allow the import and resale of foreign editions of American works (previously prevented by copyright law) means:
- cheap imports, and
- no royalties for the authors on those sales
—constitutional protection of copyrights is in play, in that "the value (of the copyrights) is quickly being depreciated."
—hardest hit by this depreciation: new authors and mid-list authors, not well-established authors
Lest you think this doesn't affect you, because you might be an indie-only author, give the article a read, particularly the bit about what happens when all those players mentioned above get their hands on indie newcomers; and also consider the implications of one of Turow's concerns, as explained in his analysis of Amazon's acquisition of Goodreads, below.
Amazon's Acquisition of Goodreads
The acquisition has many people up in arms and many others trying to cool the flames with level heads . . . but do the level heads see the long term big picture? Scott Turow's take is that this is a clear step toward monopoly through vertical integration (i.e. through owning all the pieces that go together to make an industry. Traditionally, in the pre-internet world, that meant owning companies: that have the raw materials; that manufacture the product; that have the 'software' like replacement parts or functional parts like toner for a copy machine, for example; that do the advertising and sales; and anything else involved in making and selling a product. As you know, monopoly, which by definition prevents competition through 'restraint of trade,' is illegal in our country and in many others. Vertical integration can allow major cost-cutting to production and sales, some or all of which is passed along to the consumer, creating a company that beats out all the competition so effectively that it's the only real game in town—a monopoly. Smaller companies typically just can't survive trying to compete against it.)
It's a new form of monopoly that Turow is talking about—what he calls a 'modern monopoly.' My take on this is that this modern monopoly is based on a world of products (in this case, books) that incorporates the effects of the internet revolution into the traditional model of monopoly. This probably means the legal precedents that would normally be used to challenge monopoly are not sufficient now because they haven't caught up with the big changes in what constitutes production and software or services. I may be reading too much into Turow's statement, but I don't think so.
Here's the link to the article.
And then there's this:
Bestseller Lists for Print and Digital Are Very Different from Each Other
Finally, an article in this week's Publishers Weekly caught my eye. It's a report on the bestseller lists from the first quarter of 2013.
The Top 20 lists are taken from Nielsen Bookscan for print, and from Amazon Kindle for digital. Right there an issue arises, since we know neither of these sources represents a full picture of the market, given the constant changes and new efforts. But if we accept that these two sources represent the most significant sections of their respective markets, it is clear that there is a distinct parting of the ways for print and digital.
On the face of it, that doesn't seem alarming. If you dig in a bit, though, there are pieces of information that could be extrapolated to mean that there's a growing divide between the types of authors who can do well in print vs. digital, with only a few big names as crossover exceptions.
Here's the article, for your perusal.
What do you think? Are these issues of concern to you, and do you see opportunities that counteract the negative influences mentioned above?