The Hardcover

Walking to the car this morning, I received an email alert: one of my favorite authors (and a budding new influence), China Mieville, has a new book out. Great! How exciting. Click the link…and seriously.

12.99 is well beyond the price range of what I personally consider reasonable for a file that has had only a minimal amount of post-writing labor put into it, but okay, the publishers have a lot of overhead, etc. It’s not a *smart* policy and I disagree, but I at least get why the publishers are doing it. But look at that, the paperback is cheaper than the Kindle file! Not just the discounted Amazon price or the price from other retailers, but the actual paperback retail price.

This raises the question, why is the publishing industry so dedicated to preserving the sanctity of the hardcover? I know this has been visited a lot, by writers who are more well-versed in the industry than I am, but it feels like it bears repeating here: price-protecting the hardcover is a product of the exact same thinking that has kneecapped the music industry and left it perpetually behind the 8-ball, reactive rather than proactive. I had high hopes that the publishing industry was going to learn from their mistakes, and while it seems like some of the companies have (see a company like Angry Robot Books who not only focus on ebook releases but are DRM free), the Big 6 seem to be having trouble coming to terms with what they represent in this new world.

Full disclosure – there was a time that I believed in piracy as an effective means of distribution. Of course, I was a much younger, more naive person, but I don’t think that’s entirely an excuse. It’s become clearer to me over the years that it’s not entirely a victimless crime (though still not theft – that’s a misnomer).

As a way of making up for that period in my life, I have made it my personal mission to support fellow artists where-ever possible. I not only don’t download free stuff but also contribute to artists who make their works available for free and allow an avenue to donate to them. The problem arises when there may be an artist whom I feel is worthy but the price range is cost-prohibitive and just doesn’t make sense – as with China’s new book. Does that mean I’ll pirate it? No, of course not. But it does mean I’ll move on and check out the work of some other author who is charging more reasonable rates for their stories.  I know I’m not the only one in this scenario, either.

Therein lies the crux of the problem: a worthy artist is denied some income simply because of this artificial scheme to protect an anachronistic medium. It’s infuriating, but what can you do other than go down your own path and hope that things change even more soon?

Along this same path, today’s link is The Digital Reader, a fellow blogger who looks at the trends in digital publishing these days and has written up a similar rant on this very topic. I especially enjoyed his review of The Dumbest Generation. Check it out!

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