U.S. VS Apple

Fortune has a good article summing up the whole deal between the Department of Justice and Apple (and the publishing industry). Thanks for Passive Voice for the article.

There’s not a lot I can add here because I’m not a legal professional. I can’t speak to the legality or moral authority of any of the parties involved. However, I would like to say this. A lot of people say Amazon sicked the DOJ on Apple and big publishing because, well, they’re Amazon and that’s what they do. That’s how they compete, they drive down the little guys like Microsoft was doing against Netscape.

Here’s the thing, when Netscape “sicked” the DOJ on Microsoft, it was a desperate act to try and compete with Internet Explorer. Whether or not it was warranted or if they did it at all aside, everyone said they did it because they knew Netscape was in trouble.

I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but Amazon isn’t in trouble.

Maybe they’re just being ridiculously aggressive, that is what a lot of people accuse Amazon of. Of course, I don’t buy from Amazon because of price, I buy out of convenience. I like digital books, I like having everything in one place, and I like being able to buy a book from my bed and read it.

Publishers were afraid hardback book sales would fall, and they had a reason to be afraid. Hardback books are a ripoff and always have been. The only reason they got away with it was because you had no other choice. What sense does it make to pay $20-30 for a book that will come out at $7.99 in a year? It was to make money, pure and simple. When another opportunity to make money came along, publishers avoided it. Amazon jumped on it. Then Apple wanted a piece and had to drag publishers into the future to make it happen.

 

Parallells Between Video Games Industry and Publishing Industry

Gamepolitics published Microsoft’s FAQ for the Xbox One today, and it’s really interesting to see some familiar ideologies.  Ones I’ve been reading about in publishing. Namely, paranoia.

Basically, if you don’t connect to the internet every 24 hours, it won’t play games. Publishers will have the option to disable used games. They can also choose what retailers will be able to participate and whether or not a fee will be applied to the trade in. They will have the option to disable allowing your friends to borrow games. They will have the option to disable game rentals.

Now, it’s really too soon to tell, but if this is true, it reeks of a paranoia I would usually ascribe to Apple. They want to monitor every purchase you make and ensure they don’t lose one solitary sale.

And if it were were digital sales only, it wouldn’t be as big a deal. Computers have pretty much already moved to that point. Steam basically requires everything I listed above, and I buy from them regularly. I haven’t bought a physical copy of a PC game (that was made this decade) in over two years. But I’m not doing it that way to give them a solid. They won my business through convenience and making the price right.

So far, no game system has done that. You can go on Xbox Live or the Playstation store and see games that came out years ago for fifty and sixty bucks. You have a few sales, but it is nowhere near as apparent as what you find on Steam, Amazon, or Gamestop’s digital catalog. It takes up the limited space on the machine, takes forever to download and often times they don’t even have what I want.

I’m not coming at this from the angle that you should be able to resell anything. I think the ability to resell a digital only copy is pointless and would create a lot of chaos. With a used game (or book for that matter) sale, you are getting a lesser price for the risk of a used product. Scratches, dings, creases, wearing. A digital copy is the exact same thing as the final product in the same quality, and the only person who gets to sell that is the person who produces it.

What I am really more concerned is the hassle that will be associated with this. It’s a pain in the ass to use my PS3 sometimes. I have to download the new update, download the store update, download the game’s update, and rarely is this to add anything to my experience. It’s just making sure I didn’t pull one over on them.

This is the reason for piracy. It sounds as if Microsoft has convinced themselves they’ve built the perfect piracy blocker. But it also sounds pretty damn inconvenient. That drives people in one of two direction. Piracy, or they just don’t buy it. I’m not condoning piracy by any means, but if you fail to put your product on the market place, put stumbling blocks and wraparound lines to get it, treat the consumer as if they are a thief before they’ve even had a chance to be your consumer, and then act as if they should be happy to be getting this much, well, yeah, you pretty much deserve what you get.

Publishing is seeing a similar attitude in failing to keep up with the consumer. Major publishers price e books the exact same price as their paperback counterparts and the only convenient way to get a digital book is through one of their booksellers, primarily Amazon. I don’t buy from them because of price, I buy for them because I can do it in seconds. Barnes and Noble’s website is terrible and the Nook is just lackluster. So is their app.

What was truly disturbing to me was the talk of “disruption”. Ebooks, digital sales, and e-commerce were a disruption? Really? Really? For everyone else in the world it was an opportunity and a big one at that. Retailers with a physical product jumped on board. They aren’t beating Amazon, but they’re not treating them like Godzilla either. No more than they would any big competitor like Wal-Mart. Why couldn’t they, the people who have a product that is purely data, compete?

There is a desire for control that is scary in both these industries. Both industries have seen major collapses from bad business practices in the past. I know I’m an outsider, but I’d say I’m pretty well versed in the gaming industry. Publishing not as much, but when a global industry is controlled by five and a halfish companies, and they’re all acting like the ground is falling out from under them, well…what am I supposed to think?

A Couple Articles On Publishing

I said yesterday that I’ve learned a lot about publishing since last posting. One of the ways I’ve done that is by seeking a balance in the information I ingest. I read a lot from self-published authors and supporters (Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Katherine Rusch, The Book Designer, The Passive Voice)as well as traditional publishing supporters (Janet Reid, Tobias Bucknell, Nathan Bransford, and various other agent’s blogs).

I want to share a couple of articles, because I think they present some good opinions on both side.

First off, Tobias Bucknell’s article on Survivorship Bias. It’s about the success you’re seeing in self publishing being the only voice, or the loudest voice, because of the sort of “cause” surrounding it. Anyone who disparrages it is seen as a defeatist or anti revolutionary. It’s a really good article and worth reading even if you’re not looking at publishing. That type of bias applies to a lot more than just getting published.

The second is a three parter (one, two, and three) by Judith Tarr. I found it via Dean Wesley Smith’s blog (already linked, but I want to emphasize checking it out, even if you don’t self-publish, his advice on writing is stellar), and discuss how the industry has changed and the poisonous nature of the Big Six (Is it Five yet? Maybe Five and Half?).

Both articles make some great points. As with all things, I believe it probably falls somewhere in the middle and mileage will vary based on circumstances.

Even as a relatively new outsider, I can see the industry has changed. It takes only a cursory amount of business knowledge to know that when an industry changes, the businesses that stay in the past fail. Publishing, bookselling, writing, everything involved with the environment, is changing, if it hasn’t already.

During my blogging hiatus I read a lot in the industry. I saw Nightshade, a major small press, go under and read as their authors tried to survive its sinking. I read as Random House tried to lock authors into deals (Via Hydra) that were so bad, SFWA President and author John Scalzi slammed them and threatened to revoke their status as a recognized publisher. I’ve read as one author after another either chose to sell their self published work to a major publisher, or chose to take their work from big publishers and do it themselves. I read James Patterson’s full page ad requesting the government bail out the publishing industry.

These events made me think hard about the publishing path I choose in the future. I work for a multibillion dollar corporation. The reason? Security. No company is invincible, but mine has a good reputation and knows how to survive. Choosing a publishing path has the same decisions. Simply put, (and this is a generalization) you can work for a major company, work for a smaller company, or start your own business. There is risk with the latter and lack of control with the former.

Similar with publishing.

There are numerous advantages and disadvantages and every single case I’ve linked to above, mentioned, thought about, imagined, dreamed, feared, or fantasized has different variables. The author, their work, their genre, their platform, their publisher, their publisher’s other endeavors, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders (Ouch, too soon?), and a thousand others.

The point is, you are seeing norms change. Authors publishers wouldn’t have touched are getting six or seven figure advances. Contracts that were concrete are negotiable. Authors who have made fortunes with major publishers are striking out on their own. Authors who have made nothing with publishers are striking out on their own, and making a living.

That last point is probably the most important, because I feel that’s the where most aspiring authors find themselves. Maybe you can get a book deal, but after that who knows what will happen? The only thing anyone can agree on is that there is absolutely no way to predict the next bestseller. The middle is where most books fall, and those are the books getting the least attention from Big Publishing, and yet finding the most success in self publishing. They already have an audience to promote too, but every audience has to start somewhere.

I’m not published, and as I have stated above, I’m an outsider trying to get a better picture as I make the transition to insider. This is simply my analysis based on the information I have gathered. If anyone has more info, supporting or contradicting, it is always appreciated.

Good writing!