Books in the Age of the iPad

Smart essay, although I don’t think the distinction between Formless and Definite Content entirely holds up. Even Formless Content acquires a shape by virtue of being poured into a particular container. Holding a book in my hand and thumbing through it, I can acquire a subconscious sense of where particular passages are based on how their text flows and whether more of the weight is on the left or the right. The first e-book application to provide affordances that can supply that subconscious sense (or supplant it with something even better) will be the true turning point in the revolution that shifts Formless Content to purely digital platforms.

I’m interested in reading his article, because I’m very interested in book design, but I’m already annoyed because when I tried to print the piece out (so I could read it in bed or over lunch) I couldn’t get a print out of the whole thing.

I feel the same way you do, James, about getting a subconscious sense of where things are in a book. For a whole variety of reasons, I don’t think e books will ever supplant the codex books that we are all used to. It is interesting that the e book manufacturers have put so much attention into making their products duplicate the experience of reading a printed book. (For example, Kindle tries to give readers a way to run their fingers down the stack of the pages.)

Yet we all still think in terms of the text organized as pages. Indeed, an important reading skill that children need to learn is how to understand text as a series of pages. British book artist Paul Johnson has done a lot of work on how making their own books helps encourage children’s literacy. In my writing classes I have kids make their own books by hand, and I can see that doing so helps them develop skills in organizing content, because they learn to think about their stories in terms of pages. As children progress through school, they need to recognize how textbook pages are organized to get the full content. (If they don’t read captions or sidebars, for example, they will miss important material.)

What I’m saying is that, in modern societies, reading — and thinking — is not just about words, but about pages too. That might not have turned out to be the case, but the codex is such a terrific piece of technology that it has literally shaped the way we think. I don’t think that putting the text on an ipad will really change that.

One thing that intrigues me about so much of the discussion of e books vs. paper books is how little people talk about the economic forces shaping the e book market. It seems to me that a big question is whether in this new world of inexpensive publishing, the pattern of relationships between writers, publishers and distributors that has developed in the print world can continue. One point I heard when talking to and listening to other objectors at the Google hearing is that this new environment gives writers freedom from the demands of publishers and opportunities to get economic benefit from their work independently.

There were already areas in print publication where writers and artists self-published and shied away from the traditional model. Graphic novels, which are one of the fastest growing areas in publishing, are a prime example of this. It’s an area that publishers are now anxious to get into, but it is a market that was developed by self-publishing writers & illustrators. On line, blogs can work the same way. I think everyone is scrambling to figure all this out.

“Back in 2004 when my mother decided that she wanted to publish my work she said to me, “I don’t want it to be ‘cheap’, I want it to be a good book.” She wanted the physical book – the paper, ink, binding and cover to be of a good quality that would last for years. And, I think we succeeded…..Google Inc. took my work and made a sad imitation – they could not even respect the cover I had given “Fevens, a family history”. When I designed the cover I thought the “F” in “Fevens” was to far away from the following letters so I had it moved closer. When I first went to Google’s version of my cover they had even added my name to it thereby completely redesigning it!” email to Governor Jim Doyle, Office of the Governor, State of Wisconsin, May 31, 2009 (9:54 a.m. ADT)

I have never heard from the Governor.

Douglas Fevens, Halifax, Nova Scotia— The University of Wisconsin, Google, & Me

“The first e-book application …that can supply that subconscious sense…will be the true turning point in the revolution that shifts Formless Content to purely digital platforms.”

There already is such an application, its called Intelligence, and the wished for “digital platform” also exists, its called the Brain.


If you’ve ever self-published or spent time on a self-publishers’ forum, you’d know that self-publishing is harder and no less expensive than traditional publishing. All the financial burdens and risks of paying for editing, illustration, indexing, page formatting, translation from foreign languages, marketing, fulfillment, and so forth are merely shifted from publisher to author. So are all the costs and work of setting up and running a small business. If the author does some or all of the publishing tasks instead of hiring them out, then the author must learn a host of new skills at a professional level.

I’ve done this for over 15 years and it is very, very hard. I work all day every day, including every weekend and every holiday. I haven’t had a vacation or an entire day off (except for having the flu) since I set up my business. With all this labor, I’ve still only produced eight books (if you count one going into a second edition), with two more on the way.

In addition, the entire book review, marketing, and distribution system is stacked against self-publishers. The Library of Congress will not give them free library cataloging data (as it routinely does for larger publishers), so professional cataloging data has to be paid for. Most major review media will not review self-published books (unless the author disguises the fact which is hard to do). Most major wholesalers will not carry them, unless the self-publisher has managed to accumulate at least 10 titles or gives the wholesaler a higher discount to be included. Many self-publishers have to go through a distributor just to get into the major wholesaler dominating the business, and distributors insist on up to an 80% discount off cover price. Many bookstores will not carry self-published books—and 80% of books are still bought in brick-and-mortar stores.

People assume the author can just put the book on a website and mention it on a blog and the world will find it. But the world doesn’t, by a long shot. This means the author has to bear all the work and costs of a publisher’s publicity and marketing department. Sending out news releases. Doing e-mailings and postal mailings to consumers, libraries, and bookstores. Doing book signings. Getting on radio and TV for interviews. Giving lectures and workshops. Writing magazine articles. The methods vary with the author and the book, but marketing has to be done for the entire lifetime of the book. Marketing is also something that has to happen at a small level every day.

Did I mention needing a top-of-the-line computer, a suite of Windows Office software and another of Adobe graphics software, and miscellaneous other software? Plus the non-trivial skills of using some of this software at a professional level? And needing a high-end printer and scanner? Did I mention needing office space to accomodate all this equipment, plus mounds of paper all the time (yes, you still need to use lots of paper)?

Did I mention needing to pay for a professional accountant and occasional legal services? Did I mention the cost of health insurance?

Self-publishing, whether electronic or not, does not mean all the work and costs of producing a book and running a busines—in addition to the long labor of writing—magically go away. Authors who do all this work need to be fairly compensated for it—and for writing—in order to produce books at all.

Sally I very much agree.

Most people tend to overlook the very physical nature of thinking: they forget that thinking is movement. And also how critical the disposition/arrangement of elements in space, is to thinking. W H Auden once wrote that the best way to study a text was to physically re-write it .

Any constructed representation of the world may or may not reveal much in the way of truth about the world , but it always reveals all of the movement of mind that created that representation of the world


I am a modern artist: a sole trader. Have done it with varying degrees of success for 30 years. You are right about the difficulties and hard work of doing it yourself. Most have little idea of the amount of value adding that takes place between painting the picture , exhibition and the cheque. Many modern artists are actually more like ‘Team Walker’. Many successful artists have a long term relationship with a sole commercial agent( usually employed on a commission basis). Many have a spouse doing a lot of work in the background managing the lives of people who are often in Patrick White’s self description :”the monster of all time”; Manoly Lascaris’s often repeated words to Patrick spring to mind: “Patrick its 3 am, I cant leave you there are no buses until 6 am. Go to bed.” They used to call their place “Signal Driver”.

It is little wonder that most opt for an easier life; fitting into in some sort of, public or private,.. group.

And in case anyone thinks bookstores, wholesalers, and distributors are unnecessary middlemen who just add to the cost of books: They are not there because books are in print format. Publishers, from large publishers to self-publishers, have always been able to sell print books directly to consumers.

The problem is, hardly anyone wants to buy books directly from publishers. Readers want to buy from bookstores because bookstores offer a large number of titles from many publishers. (Some online bookstores, such as Amazon, offer a large variety of other merchandise as well.) Readers enjoy browsing among and comparing the books, and they can easily consolidate purchases and online orders. Readers also feel that bookstores are more reliable than self-publishers. There is always a whiff of suspicion attached to self-publishers and micropublishers: Readers, bookstores, wholesalers, and reviewers are automatically inclined to assume that the books are of low quality and that the business operates in a flaky manner.

Bookstores and libraries want to buy from wholesalers (indeed, usually insist on it) because wholesalers offer a large variety of titles from many publishers. This offers bookstores considerable cost-effective savings in ordering and accounting. Bookstores and libraries also feel that wholesalers are much more reliable than self-publishers or micropresses. And the books, having been screened, are guaranteed to be of professional quality—or at least to sell fairly well. The larger wholesalers will, by the way, dump micropresses whose books do not perform adequately in the market.

So, the existence of e-books is not likely to change the need for middlemen, because they do not exist to warehouse printed books. In fact, except for some distributors, most avoid warehouse costs as much as possible and operate largely on a back-order system. Middlemen exist because, as I’ve said, most readers do not find most books by wandering across authors’ websites, and when they do they’ll buy them from Amazon or some other online store rather than from the author, given any choice at all. And, there is considerable value to having centralized locations where readers who want to find and browse books can do so—many books sell that way when the reader did not hear about them from the publisher’s marketing. As for bookstores wanting to save on costs by ordering from wholesalers, if they couldn’t do that, they’d require higher discounts from publishers, and that would require publishers to raise book prices.


the technical problem with e-books is; how can the punters browse the book in the ‘bookshop’ ,without downloading the book?

And another point: Self-publishers and micropresses were overjoyed when they could sell their print books through Amazon and reach all those readers, instead of paying 55% to Ingram, the major wholesaler in the trade, who sells to bookstores. So, Amazon set up a special micropress program (Amazon Advantage) charging these publishers a 55% discount—instead of the usual 40% charged by bookstores.

But, you pretty much have to have your books in one of the centralized trade locations—preferably a number of them—in order for anyone to buy them. Even ardent readers simply do not have infinite amounts of time to search for books.


For my first year in business, I sold all my books directly to readers at full cover price. Then I got into Ingram, and had to give them a 55% discount. But, I soon started selling more books, enough to make more money even with the 55% discount.

I now sell fewer than a dozen books a year direct to consumers. And I’m glad. Fulfillment is incredibly time consuming. It’s not just a matter of entering data into spreadsheets, making out receipts, and packing the books (and even with e-books you have to carefully maintain all the order records; and by the way, sales, business, and income taxes also have to be dealt with). It’s a matter of spending a lot of time answering questions (including very detailed ones from people who just want two hours of free consulting instead of buying a book). And sometimes, dealing with some very weird people who want to scream about fraud on the phone at the top of their lungs about things like, they did not give valid payment for an order and so I will not send it. Or they placed a pre-publication order that was declared as such and the publication date has not yet arrived, but they complain because they don’t have the book yet. I quit filling pre-orders after my first book—there were two sisters who team-tagged me calling from out of state every single day to shout about not having received their pre-order.

With the Internet, it’s worse. People insist on constant personalized contact, advice, confirmations of every little thing. There just simply is not time to write books, and produce them, and market them, and also spend two hours a day dealing with customers.

So I don’t view using a wholesaler as fitting into a group, but as giving me time I need to actually get some paying work done.


You are right: Customers can leaf through a print book in a bookstore without copying any of it. However, “browsing” does not necessarily mean seeing the whole book. When a customer goes to Amazon, they can compare the descriptions, reviews, and prices of various books—including software-provided selections the customer may not have thought of and which are not otherwise brought up by their search terms. The information about each book is often quite detailed and varied, and it is sufficient for most people to decide what to purchase. The same information is provided for e-books.

If customers wish to do further research, they can often find information on the author’s website. Amazon, by the way, also now provides author “profile” pages where the author can provide a bio and link to his/her website, blog, etc.

Publishers of all sizes are well aware of this. One standard goal these days is to get reviews onto Amazon. Amazon sells their own review copy distribution program, called Amazon Vine. Vine is expensive, and is preferred by larger publishers rather than smaller ones. However, there are other ways to get reviews posted. Authors and micropublishers encourage readers to post reviews, and some even provide free review copies to facilitate this.

I don’t want to see Amazon (or anyone) get a monopoly on the online book market, whether for e-books or print books. However, the recommendations, etc., provided by other online sites are a distant second and they would do well to improve these, because currently, Amazon is where readers automatically think of looking for books online.

A publisher’s and/or author’s website can (and often does) provide similar information: A color picture of the book cover; PDFs of the table of contents, index, and/or selected sample pages; quotes from reviews and reader comments; short book excerpts that do not compete with sales; detailed author bios; FAQs; blogs; announcements of forthcoming books, interviews, and book signings; and links to online articles about the book or author, and to published interviews. Readers usually go to the author’s or publisher’s website second, after Amazon (and often not at all); still, the information is easy to provide and useful to some.

My point is: You don’t have to provide the whole book for browsing to enable anyone to make a purchase. My own experience is that the harder a reader is to convince the less likely they are to buy. It’s not really worthwhile to provide the whole book (or any portion that competes with sales) to convince anyone (nor to spend a long time giving them customized information). Especially if, as you’ve just pointed out, they are all too likely to then just take the book without paying for it.

That blog post is artsy-fartsy nonsense. Look, there are whole books on book design, which significantly serves (or should serve) editorial as well as design purposes. My favorite is Marshall Lee’s Bookmaking.

In such a book, you can find out all about designing a book that best serves the purposes of that specific kind of book for that specific audience. You don’t design a romance novel like a cookbook, a math text, a coffee-table book, or an anthology of poems. You can find out all about typography—type classifications, specific fonts, type size, and line leading. You can find out all about how to design margins, running heads, page folios (page numbers), lists, bibliographies, glossaries, everything. You can find out all about how to use and place illustrations. And many other things.

The term “definite content” is useless. OK, e-books flow unless the page is fixed as in a PDF. Which flowing, by the way, makes careful placement of illustrations for both editorial and design purposes, a significant problem.

Otherwise, this is news? I’m just a simple graphic designer (in addition to all my other tasks). I need to get back to hand-designing each page of two 500+ page heavily illustrated books so they look good, and so that all illustrations are placed after and close to references, and so forth. Calling them “definite content” doens’t give me a clue how to it any better.

I meant this post to be a commentary on this essay. It now appears that most readers of the blog didn’t see the link. When I make the title of a post a hyperlink, it doesn’t show up as such in the RSS feed. That’s a known bug that I need to fix. Previously, these hyperlinks would break the RSS feed entirely. Progress! I apologize for the confusion, and will avoid creating such links until the issue is fully fixed.

The arguments over ‘Copyright’- what is it. An image that comes to mind is the “gyre”.

Artists have a had a long love affair with Fibonacci’s spiral, in part because of its close relation to the golden mean ratio calculation but mostly because it allows reconciliation of two of the most potent metaphors for time: the wheel of time- repetition and : the arrow of time- we are born, make whining noises and eventually die. Piero’s (mathematician, priest and artist) picture is a Fibonacci structure: the figures on the right are in a garden in the morning, the events on the left took place at night.

The GBS repeats in a sort of spiral . The problem of fair use and the web is partly the problem about all laws about ‘intention’. In a real book store the test for charges of shoplifting is not intention, it is walking out the door without paying. People make copies for all sorts of reasons, mostly not for personal profit . The other problem to do with ‘Fair /common’ use is that the right of use of commons is solely a right of ‘commoners ‘. Thus: Is either Google or the plaintiff’s, a commoner?
Another wider repeated theme to copyright argy-bargy is : the nature of originality. Hofstader rightly described all originality as’ variations on a theme’. Some people think my work is a bit original, truth is; when I make a copy I do it so badly that it looks original. Poor copying , along with selection pressure , survival of the fittest (and the odd meteor, Modern Artists have always loved the book of Job) is how all evolution works. No copies= stasis not meta.

The arguments about copyright go on & on because they are not really arguments, they are contests over definition -‘title’-‘rights’ and thus : they are “questions of power”.


I did not mean in any way to belittle the work of self-publishers and small presses. I do understand that it is a tremendous amount of work, and I apologize if I offended you.

I was only trying to make the point that changes in print technology and the web are opening up new opportunities as well as new means of publication, and that this will lead to changes in the economic structure of the industry.

I know photographers, for example, who are publishing books through services like that give the artist control and take care of printing and customer fulfillment. These places seem to be offering more and more services. (I know the one that belongs to Amazon offers a lot of services.)

In addition, there are people who serve a niche market, who can sell from their own websites and by working directly with niche booksellers. One example I can think of is Cherryl Moote, who writes and publishes her own instructional books on handmade artists books. I don’t know how much money she actually makes from her books, but selling them, no doubt, builds an audience for her workshops. (This is not insignificant, as an artist may well make more money from giving workshops than from book sales.)

It seems to me that new opportunities for marketing one’s writing and art show up more and more on the web. I’ve made money off my photographs on with minimal effort. And I ran across recently and am hoping to make money from some of my writing through that site.

(An off-topic aside here to James in particular, docstoc seems to have policies that almost actively encourage copyright infringement — which is easy to find on the site. I don’t know enough about the Nabster case to say, but it seem to me that docstoc’s practices may be bad enough to lose a class action if someone were to bring it.)

Finally, Francis, once I got a chance to read the blog post James linked, I agree with your assessment of it as “artsy-fartsy nonsense”; in fact, I was more impressed with (though annoyed by) how cleverly it used links and pop-ups. His assumption that design is unimportant in novels and non-fiction generally is ridiculous. As wonderfully written as they are, I don’t think the Lemony Snickett books would have sold so well without their wonderful design. A lot of the success of West Law Publishing has to do with the book designs they developed for printing cases and horn books. And any good writer of either fiction or creative nonfiction ends each chapter with something that will get the reader to turn the page.

I don’t think that e books can replace paper books, any more than audio books can. E book machines can be good tools for reading some things — I would have been happy to have an iPad with pdf files of the GBS case briefs when I came up to New York instead of the heavy case of papers I carried on to the train. But I’d rather have a paperback novel than an iPad any day; and with a paperback, I own the book, not just a license to read it off somebody’s server.

At the same time, I think that, sooner or later, someone will find a form of storytelling that is more suited to an e book than to a paper book. But even if it is drawn from a paper book, it will have to be some kind of adaptation — like an audio book version of a novel has to be different from the printed version. Or a screen adaptation is different; or a radio drama version is different. There are a lot of ways to tell stories and as new technologies have appeared, people have used those technologies; but the storytelling has to make use of the new technology in service of the storytelling, or it won’t succeed. Like Avatar, where James Cameron consciously worked to keep the 3-D aiding — not interfering with — the storytelling.

Speaking of which, it’s time for me to go to the guilty pleasure of debating Oscar dresses, introductions, and acceptance speeches with my family. Though I already know via the Web that Meryl Streep made a bad dress choice.


I’ve been using the Internet to sell self-published niche books ever since there was an Internet.

Vanity/subsidy presses have always been around—and Lulu is a vanity press. The problem with vanity presses in general is that (a) most of the services they offer are not good, and their marketing regarding their services can be misleading, and (b) every reviewer recognizes who they all are, and almost no large review media will review any vanity press books. Self-publishers who need services are much better off just hiring their own editors, designers, marketers, etc. There are straightforward print-on-demand printers who do not provide, or claim to provide, any additional services and who do a good job with unillustrated books. (POD does not in general work well for illustrations at the current state of the technology.)

One important thing to remember about print-on-demand is that it is currently mostly a way to produce short runs rather than printing one book at a time. There is less capital outlay up front than for offset printing, but the POD unit/per-book printing cost is currently higher than that of offset printing for runs under about 500 (beyond which it’s better to use an offset printer). Meaning that POD books need to be priced higher for readers.

I’ve found that readers almost always want to buy from a centralized location such as Amazon—and Amazon and other online discount sites have put almost all of the niche booksellers I used to sell to out of business.

Other than that, I agree with you about e-books needing to become a new media for creating new kinds of works. One that incorporates sound, animation, and/or video with text, and/or collaboratorive storytelling with the reader. To do this, readers have to leave behind the notion of e-books just being searchable, cheap versions of print books.

I also agree that books, even unillustrated ones, need to be designed. What people have been talking about as a “subconscious sense” of a book is largely a result of careful choices in font, margins, and other graphic design elements.

One reason I was impatient with that blog is that anyone who’s ever designed a website knows that the problem of designing a “flowing” document is hardly new. For a website, readers can resize the window at will, they have monitors showing the colors differently, they have different bandwidths that affect how long they are willing to wait to see things before giving up and clicking off the site, the font choices are limited … and there often really is no way to solve the problem of making the website look great for everyone in every situation. You just have to assume some averages and do the best you can.

There are books with specific advice on how to design websites, and there will be books with specific advice on how to design e-books (if there aren’t already). I just prefer specifics to jargon.

Two last random comments: One of the most beautiful books I ever saw was an original copy of (part of) Diderot’s encylopedia. One of the cleverest back cover designs I ever saw was for a book on Art Deco, where the designer actually managed to make the bar code (usually a hideous blot on the cover), look great as a design element.

Sally the e-book combines Extension in time with extension in space, its possible that the ideas of the likes of Kurosawa and Eisenstein might be applicable. Or perhaps somebody on a more domestic scale , like Hokusai? Would haiku suit the ebook?

morning mist, how nice

just for once

not to see Mount Fuji

John & Francis,

I just remembered a wonderful site that is an online version of a terrific print ABC book for kids. It is a good example of what I’m talking about. The original paper book is an excellent one, while the animated on line one is excellent in a whole different way. Be sure to click on the letters to get the full effect.

One of the author-illustrators in the Children’s Book Guild of DC has been doing interesting work with digital storytelling, too. You can see some of it at Take a quick look at “My Tooth”; though it still has a “pageness” that the Bembo Zoo lacks, Jean is definitely creating something that is not simply digital imitation of a paper book. Nor is it an animated cartoon; it is an e book.


Sally the zoo is lovely.

I sort of feel that the ebook in general might? have the feel of a sort of ‘musicality’ about its space. The ‘art of fugue’ Perhaps?

A bit more from

Narrow Road to the Deep North:

‘In this mortal frame of mine, which is made of 100 bones, 9 orifices, there is something, something that is called the ‘windswept spirit’ for lack of a better name , for it is much like a thin drapery that is torn and swept away at the slightest stir of the wind. This something in me took to writing poetry years ago, merely to amuse itself at first but finally making it its life long business. It must be admitted, however, that there were times when it sank into such dejection that it was almost ready to drop it’s pursuit or again times when it was so puffed up with pride that it exulted in vain victories over the others. Indeed, ever since it has began to write poetry it has never found peace with itself, always wavering between doubts of one kind or another. At one time it wanted to gain security by entering the service of a court and in another it wished to measure the depths of its ignorance by trying to be a scholar but it was prevented from either because of its unquenchable love of poetry. The fact is, it knows no other art than the art of writing poetry and therefore it hangs on to it more or less blindly.’


the’ zoo’ is also stimulating; what sort of ‘tool kit’ is used to construct such a thing?

John, Do also take a look at Jean Gralley’s work too. I think it’s even more “e bookish”.

As for tools, I believe a lot of it is done with Adobe Flash. Jean knows much more about it than I do. (I’m really a maker of concrete artists books, not digital ones.) She’s a lovely, helpful person and deeply interested in digital storytelling (in part because of her belief that it can be very helpful to many children). So if you have questions, feel free to contact her. Once you enter her site (the click spot is just below the happy giant) you can easily find her contact information.

Jean is interesting as an artist trained in traditional paper based techniques who is embrassing and exploring the digital world. I think this sort of cross-fertilization between traditional and new technologies that one sees in the work of numerous people who mix images and words (particularly book artists, graphic novel writers & artists, and children’s book artists & illustrators) is very exciting.

This is a small part of what we think of when we talk about the publishing industry and, as Francis convincingly argues, these people’s efforts are not going to cause a restructuring of the whole industry. But I think that these artists — many of whom are using the new technologies to gain more control over their work — will have some effect.

One of the reasons I mentioned the Graphic Novel people earlier is that they are very big on having complete control over their work, and over how the words, images, and design are put together. That is why so many of them have chosen to self-publish. Now that the genre is growing fast and big houses want to get into graphic novel, I wonder what will happen. A number of children’s book publishers are trying to add graphic novels to their lists. However, picture books are put together and marketed in a very different way that graphic novels have been; and the power of editors, publishers, and booksellers has been much greater in the picture book world than in the world of graphic novels. I think it’ll be interesting to see what effect the culture clash has here.


I like (some) graphic novels too, but they have been published by large publishers for a long time in the form of comic books. In fact many graphic novels are still published in series, like comic books, with the intention of later assembly into a book. “Graphic novel” is just a marketing term indicating that this is material suitable for adults and often with serious subject matter. The commercial-breakthrough graphic novel is often considered to be Art Spiegelman’s Maus, which began to be published as a series of underground comics (the former marketing term for serious, often subversive comics) in 1980. However, I have copies of the graphic novels forming Will Eisner’s Contract with God trilogy, which he started publishing in the 1970s, though I didn’t read it at the time; I was reading underground comics in the 1970s, for example, the Furry Freak Brothers.

Many of the graphic novel writers have a decidedly commercial outlook: Neil Gaiman, for example, who writes for DC Comics, among others, and who started writing comics in the mid 1980s.

What I am getting at is, people talk about Internet book sales as a whole new world, self-publishing as a whole new world, etc., as if these will somehow magically made up for whatever opportunities are being destroyed in the old publishing world. In fact, both have been around for a long time (self-publishing is the original publishing form), they have track records, and it is already possible to tell whether they work miracles or not. They don’t.

Print-on-demand is affordable enough that e-books don’t really offer any additional opportunities to self-publishers (and self-publishers used offset printing before POD; I still use offset). The Internet provides new publicity opportunities but because publicity venues are so scattered, and often inherently labor intensive, it doesn’t make up for the review opportunities lost with the demise of some of the large review publications and the problems encountered by many large-city daily newspapers who used to have substantial book-review sections—who are, by the way, discovering that they really can’t get enough money from Internet advertising to support themselves. With magazines wanting e-rights for nothing, journalism doesn’t pay most writers anything worthwhile these days.

Some people who know nothing about publishing have this pie-in-the-sky attitude, that (a) all writers work just for fun or are supported by other handsomely paying jobs. Fact: Not by a long shot. And/or (b) if the structure of publishing is set up so that writers are not paid by readers, money will magically appear for them, “grants or something.” Just as long as readers get all their entertainment and information free, they don’t care whether or not someone else pays, it just makes them feel better to assert it.

But, publishing is a business and writing is a profession. Few people start (or maintain) an expensive, labor-intensive business or profession with the assurance that maybe, someday, someone undesignated will pay them some entirely unspecified amount in return for their large investment of capital and/or labor. Meanwhile, what money there is to earn from a book is generally earned in dribbles over a long time period—writers are often not paid much up front—and people who know nothing about the business then chant about “obscenely long copyright terms.”

In other words, starry-eyed assumptions by people not in the business that there are boundless new opportunities are meaningless. Especially when they are trying as hard as they can to remove opportunities to get paid.

I think that books will continue as a viable hard copy format for a long time to come ( the significance of the shear size of the potential market demand in India is still lost on most). Newspapers journals and other fairly ‘of the day’ forms of publishing will more and more take the form of e-publishing and the e-book will evolve into ‘something else’.

Something that is definitely not so likely to survive is the payment of transaction fees/levees on photocopying in educational and other forms of libraries. Hence the world wide push by the holders of these statutory license ‘rights’ to take over rights that are not so likely to become extinct.

From IP property watch

Interview With Bill Pollock, Founder Of No Starch Press on publishing in the e-age. Nicely free of moral panic, though his approach to cooking recipes is a bit of a worry.

..when it comes to recipes, I just type in the ingredients on Google and that is my recipe.

Elizabeth David would be be spinning. What is about anglos, can build the internet, split the atom and then sit down to a microwave TV dinner.