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Some news about the Hugo voters packet

A joint statement:

It has become customary in recent years for authors of Hugo-nominated works to provide the members of the World Science Fiction convention who get to vote for the awards with electronic copies of their stories. The ball started rolling a few years ago when John Scalzi kindly took the initiative in preparing the first Hugo voters packet; since then it has become almost mandatory to distribute shortlisted works this way.

Unfortunately, as professionally published authors, we can't do this without obtaining the consent of our publishers. We are bound by contracts that give our publishers the exclusive rights to distribute our books: so we sought their permission first.

This year, Orbit—the publisher of Mira Grant's "Parasite", Ann Leckie's "Ancillary Justice", and Charles Stross's "Neptune's Brood"—have decided that for policy reasons they can't permit the shortlisted novels to be distributed for free in their entirety. Instead, substantial extracts from the books will be included in the Hugo voters packet.

We feel your disappointment keenly and regret any misunderstandings that may have arisen about the availability of our work to Hugo voters, but we are bound by the terms of our publishing contracts. The decision to give away free copies of our novels is simply not ours to take. However, we are discussing the matter with other interested parties, and working towards finding a solution that will satisfy the needs of the WSFS voters and our publishers in future years.

Finally, please do not pester our editors: the decision was taken above their level. Edit: Don't pester anyone else, either. The issue is closed.

Signed,

(Mira Grant (aka Seanan McGuire), Ann Leckie, Charles Stross)

137 Comments

1:

Fair enough.

2:

"...but we hope most people would agree that writers and rights holders should be able to make their own choice,

...

We would like to make it clear that this was our decision, and not one requested by any of our authors."

A shame, but I do admire the doublethink in saying authors should be able to make their own decisions and then that they have made decisions on the authors behalf.

Still, it was going to be struggle to finish Wheel of Time and read the other works

3:

It's a shortsighted decision, but its theirs to make. You as the authors have no say in it. Alas.

4:

I love the Hugo voter's packet for the short works -- I could never hunt them all down in the various publications -- but I've always picked up the novels individually anyway. I've usually read 2 or 3 of them before the nominations are announced.

5:

I think this is a mistake to be perfectly honest but up to them. Doesn't bother me anyway. I bought all three books when they first came out.

Perhaps something to keep in mind for the next time authors negotiate a contract perhaps? Including permission to be on the Hugo packet (or things like it) if selected.

Interesting choice of wording though. As was said above. They mention the authors should have a choice when they really don't have any in this situation. I'm guessing Charlie and Ann didn't have an issue with the books going on the packet so it really boils down to the usual. Presumably the publisher worried about piracy.

I haven't looked but I'd guess all three books are widely available for free anyway in the usual places.

6:

That's a shame; the voters packet is AWESOME!
That said, I did buy all 3 books, love them all and am glad I am not voting this year and don't have to choose between...just plug all 3 to my friends... :D

7:

Partly it's the way books are sold regionally. The Worldcon is in Britain, so any Worldcon Packet is a British publication and it's down to the British Publisher. Looks sensible.

And then I checked. Orbit UK control 4 out of 5 nominees. The 4th? They apparently publish the Wheel of Time too. Yet Tor in the USA has announced that it will be in the Hugo packet. It's the bit that makes the "who decides" question complicated, different contract details I expect.

But it sure looks as if Orbit UK are stacking the deck for the 14-volume Hugo-winner Special Edition.

8:

Question on the technicalities of this, or more precisely, what happens when different publishers hold different rights?

According to the Hugos page on the LonCon website, the rights to Ancillary Justice and Parasite are owned by Orbit UK / Orbit US, okay. Meanwhile, Neptune's Brood is owned by Ace / Orbit UK and is affected by Orbit's decision, but WoT is owned by Tor / Orbit UK and they're in the voting packet.

Leaving aside any politics or blame on various publishers here, asking purely out of interest -- how come Orbit get a say on what happens to Neptune's Brood but not WoT?

9:

With due respect, I'm inclined to ignore the "do not pester our editors" injunction. It seems incredibly short-sighted to withold ebook distribution to prize committees. Surely some feet need to be held to the fire, and are not editor's lower extremities best toasted in this instance?
(Holding off on the send button for now.)

10:

I guess there is little reason in adding books to the pack when you publish all the non-series books in the category....

11:

With due respect, I'm inclined to ignore the "do not pester our editors" injunction

'With due respect', what part of the fact that the decision was out of their hands don't you understand?

Actually, I think we should hold your feet to the fire. You'll probably shriek that it's not your fault, but since you've already decided that that's no reason to spare someone, you'll do just fine.

12:

My understanding is that the decision to include WHEEL OF TIME in the packet was made by Tor in the USA, not Orbit (and Tor are implicitly blowing a big fat raspberry at Orbit).

Contract small-print differs between publishers and books. I'm pretty sure that Tor would not do this if their contract had hived off all rights for UK/Commonwealth and given them to another publisher; but as I understand the situation (WARNING: I MAY BE MISGUIDED) Tor bought world rights to WoT and sub-licensed certain local publication rights to Orbit.

Whereas my agent sold territorial rights separately to Ace (North America) and Orbit (UK/Commonwealth-minus-Canada), and Orbit have exclusive distribution rights over the ebook in their own territories. (No, this isn't how the internet works; yes, it's how legal contracts work: yes, I make more money by splitting the rights up this way, yes, this is me wincing and wishing the situation was different.)

13:

I'll certainly refrain from pestering the editors, but I am quite likely to look up contact information for Mr. Holman (the publisher who's signature is on the announcement) and politely let him know how short-sighted I think this is. Mind, I already own copies of all the works anyway, so it doesn't really affect me, but I'm still disappointed by this decision.

14:

If not the editors involved, then who?
I appreciate that they have responsibility without authority in this case, and would object to extremity-toasting based on the "I was only following orders" defense.
However, they do have the ear (to a greater extent than you or I) of the people who did make the decision. Their screams will be more audible, no?

15:

Ah, groblek provides a suitable candidate for toasting. Thank you.

16:

Very calm response Charlie.

I've already read Neptunes Brood and Ancillary Justice, and an extract from Feed (didn't really grab me) so I'm not too impacted by this.

Having said that, it does seem to be a monumentally dumb idea from Orbit, but I don't know how their calculus of 7,000 free copies vs sales vs winning Hugo boost to future sales by one of their authors works.

However, I would nominate their press release writer as a candidate for a sequel to 1984 - the doublespeak in the release is a breathtaking tour de force.

I do feel that Ann Leckie is most likely to be handicapped by this though, as she is less established than either yourself or Seanan. Good book though.

17:

Surely some feet need to be held to the fire, and are not editor's lower extremities best toasted in this instance?

The decision was taken by Orbit's CEO, personally. I have discussed the matter with him. So has my agent. So have Seanan's and Ann's agents. He's not budging.

Please DO NOT pester Tim Holman. It won't work, and he might get the impression I set you up to do so. My agent is currently in the process of closing the deal for the next two Laundry Files books with Orbit. If you want to see them published in the UK at all[*], it would be a really bad idea to get my British publisher's CEO personally pissed-off at me. It will also leave a big fat hole in my cash flow for a couple of years if this deal tanks, so I won't thank you, either.

Are we clear, yet?

[*] We're talking books 6 and 7 of an existing series. No other British publisher would touch it at this point because the existing publisher could exert huge leverage over their marketing if they felt like getting nasty, for any reason at all.

18:

Does Orbit even have a CLUE about that shortsighted decision hurting the authors' chances? I'm convinced that Seanan McGuire has been deprived of at least one hugo because PDFs are a bitch to handle on mobile devices.

19:

This will probably mean I leave the "novel" slot blank on my Hugo ballot. It won't be the first time.

20:

I assume the SF press will be picking up this story in about five, four, three...

Does Orbit care about the press at all?

21:

At least Baen is sane. I've already read Warbound, and my vote for it as #1 is a lock.

22:

I believe that the Aurora awards used Netgalley to give full, time limited (60 days?) copies of their shortlist for last years awards. It may be to late but has this option been explored?

23:

Ahh, I understand the situation then, and the last thing I want to do is cause difficulties for you, Seanan or Ann, so I'll refrain from stirring the pot. Besides, my own irritation mostly amounts to wishing he'd just come out and said more bluntly that he didn't believe it was in Orbit's business interests to give away that many copies. PR-speak puts my back up.

For people talking about leaving the "novel" slot blank - I hope you consider finding copies of the books at a library or borrowing from a friend if you won't buy a copy. I'm going to have a hard time deciding how to vote because I think all three of the works affected by this are really good, and will have trouble picking between them, not because of anything Orbit is or isn't doing.

24:

Got it. No editor toasting of any kind, Tim can put his socks back on.
And perhaps I'll wait until after the Hugos are award before penning an angry missive to Orbit's CEO. I'll look a right muppet if Mr. Stross wins despite the handicap imposed by said gentleman.

25:

I went and bought most of the shortlisted items when the list originally came out. It helps keep my local bookshop in business; in return, they do all the legwork of working out WTF some of the items are, whether they are available at a sensible pricepoint, and so on.

And between that and the Campbellian download, my list of "authors to watch" just got a lot longer.

Does this mean that "Hugo packet recipients" represents a financially significant fraction of the total market for a new SF book, though?

26:

Hugo Packet recipients a financially significant fraction?

No-one really knows.

I gather that there is likely to be around 2500 to 3000 downloads (based on historical evidence). That would be quite a large proportion of sales for most authors.

Of course not every download is a lost sale though.

Sometimes people have the book already (some even in hardcover) and just download an ebook version because it is convenient. Sometimes people would never have bought the book in the first place (maybe it is in a subgenre that doesn't interest them). Some may even read the ebook and then buy a dead-tree edition.

Also it can be seen as marketing. People who would never have read the book in the first place might buy the sequel or other books by that author. This effect probably isn't as pronounced for a well-established (and entrenched) author but the effect is there.

27:

As posted elsewhere, last year there was over eighteen hundred ballots for the novel category. Selling books to a percentage of those eligible voters is actually nothing compared to actually winning which translates to thousands or tens of thousands of copies. So it seems to punish the authors if anything else, because a win might have contributed to their career in some form or fashion.

Let's take this example. You give away two thousand digital copies, but really, only two hundred people might have actually bought it in real life, if prompted. (Which is unlikely.) So that's maybe a thousand dollars given away? Versus the chance of actually winning the award, which can translate to fifty thousand dollars or more in revenue?

It doesn't make any sense, either way.

28:

This is an unfortunate decision. I don't personally buy many new books because I already support my (quite excellent) local public library through my taxes and I have no difficulty getting enough great stuff to read for "free" through them.

When the Hugo nominees were announced I put in holds for all of them at the library so that I could maybe read one or two of them before the voter's packet came out. I already got to the front of the queue for Ancillary Justice and loved it. Definitely Hugo material. I'm still waiting on the rest.

The bottom line is I'm not going to go out and purchase a book just to vote on it for the Hugos. If the library can't get it to me before the voting deadline, I'll just read it later this year. It would definitely be a shame if I had to leave a few of the nominees off of my ballot because the Orbit CEO prefers I remain ignorant of the nominated works than read them for free.

29:

Selling books to a percentage of those eligible voters is actually nothing compared to actually winning which translates to thousands or tens of thousands of copies.

Not true, unfortunately. Winning the Hugo doesn't magically turn a novel into a bestseller; it only happens about 12-24 months after the book's sales peak. The only definite effect it has is that Hugo winning novels tend to stay in print a bit longer -- and in these days of print on demand tech that's become a non-issue because everything stays in print a lot longer, if only as ebooks.

30:

Near as I can tell a classic case of penny wise pound foolish on the part of Orbit. (This is the kind of advertising a publisher ought to desire, yes? How expensive is it to provide this?) But your hands are indeed tied, Charlie.

31:

Charlie: I bookscanned a number of Hugo-winning works for a livejournal discussion two weeks ago, and on the basis of that there was a clear uptick in sales, in the thousands, easily, and that was just print sales, mind you. So it's not a stretch to say that winning a Hugo wouldn't translate to that kind of sales. The proof is there. But the only case where it didn't work like that was Scalzi's, because his sales were already boosted into the stratosphere with its initial release. I hope that makes sense!

32:

For example, one Hugo award winning novel sold an additional five thousand units after September (through December), and you could easily double that between library sales, independent stores, and the like. Then throw in digital sales. (Never mind the new subsidiary right sales!) My guess is that it sold something like fifteen thousand copies, easy, in those last four months alone. The subsequent year saw another four thousand units sold. The only reason I bring this up is because the original lj discussion was about whether or not the Hugo Award has any significant financial reward, and it appears that it certainly does.

33:

You forget that, with the exception of the Larry Correia novel (which is on the ballot as a protest nomination, not a real contender) every title on the ballot is published in the UK by Orbit. (Including the Wheel of Time.)

In other words, the winner will be an Orbit title.

So why, by this logic, should Orbit cannibalize their sales ahead of time by giving it away for free?

If only one or two of the shortlist were published by Orbit things might be different; but it's impossible to be sure.

34:

I support any and all assertions that these three books happen to be the best on the ballot. I shall try and judge between them with the information I shall get. They are the only three I shall place above No Award, even if I have to rank them by rolling a die.

And I am going to the Worldcon. There will be people selling books, and I shall, if the desire and the opportunity coincides, choose the American editions.

35:

If Orbit so completely monopolizes the UK SF publishing business, then wouldn't they have a general interest in supporting the Hugos when held there?

Their new policy makes it less likely that the UK will be considered for future Worldcons since it won't be adequately supported by local publishers (or rather, publisher.) And therefore they will have less control over the process and ultimately sales when the Con migrates to a more friendly venue.

It's a bit attenuated, granted.

36:

Their new policy makes it less likely that the UK will be considered for future Worldcons since it won't be adequately supported by local publishers (or rather, publisher.)

Worldcons are not publisher-supported; they're entirely self-funding.

37:

Your particular claim, that not all who download the packet would have bought the books therein, is very likely true. I am not sure of the ratio, but I very much doubt I would even read any of the Wheel of Time without the Hugo Packet, never mind buy it.

I think we could argue until the herd lows homeward o'er the lea about what the numbers are. I know there are Hugo nominees, even eventual winners, which I have failed to complete. I can't believe that every book in the Packet, for every copy of the Packet downloaded, is a lost sale for the publisher.

But I don't know how you can measure it, and all the nominated volumes but one are a potential lost sale to Orbit UK, though I don't think you can count every volume of Wheel of Time as a lost sale. People rarely buy books in that manner.

38:

The Orbit name is big in both the UK and the USA, and Tim Holman appears to be the Publisher, the top man, for Orbit worldwide.

So I think your point is a bit stupid.

But this multinational publishing model gives him the job of carrying around a humungous basket of eggs on the behalf of authors and readers, without whom the investors are royally screwed.

How big a Humpty-Dumpty event can a publisher risk?

39:

But this multinational publishing model gives him the job of carrying around a humungous basket of eggs on the behalf of authors and readers, without whom the investors are royally screwed.

Yup. And a corporate executive's first responsibility is to avoid doing stuff that damages their company's sales.

The problem he faces is in trading off intangible business goodwill (from, hypothetically, giving away free books to Hugo voters, and from one of his titles winning the award) against somewhat-more-quantifiable-but-still-hazy lost sales (many of the Hugo voter packet downloaders are not lost sales because they wouldn't, for example, have bought the entire Wheel of Time series anyway). So: intangible A versus intangible B. The trouble is, he's open to attack/criticism if he does anything innovative -- and would find it difficult to prove the benefits.

40:

It has always been the case that it was up to the kindness of the publishers that nominated works were made available in the Hugo packet, and that there were never any guarantees.

But it was one the positive aspects of the Hugos in recent years and has engendered a lot of goodwill IMO. I am disappointed by this decision. There will undoubtedly be negative feedback. I just hope the nominees are not affected in the final voting through no fault of their own.

41:

Ah well. Wish it were otherwise. Thanks for being transparent Charlie.

42:

That is definitely a very unfortunate decision on their part. Lots of great opinions in the comments. I for one have to say There are a few that I won't go out and buy but that I'll attempt to get via the library as well. At least one other I would have purchased on my own anyway. I do think they are doing the author a disservice by not allowing the full work to be given to the voters - however at least they are still allowing an excerpt...my questions being is it going to be a sizable enough excerpt to prompt someone into continuing. If it's one or two chapters that just seems like a wash to me and hey anyone with an ereader can get a chapter sampler so that would make them doing that pointless. But I suppose we'll have to see how large of an excerpt they provide us.

I hope it doesn't impact the 3 authors chances any. That would be very sad. Best of luck to you Charlie.

43:

Fair enough, I had assumed that Orbit had a larger presence in the UK as opposed to other markets.

44:

I get that the announcement from Orbit is not necessarily indicative of the true reasons for their decision, but I've read it multiple times and I'm having trouble even figuring out what *ostensible* reason they're intending to offer.

They don't want authors to be afraid that Bad Stuff will happen if they fail to make their work available for free, so...they're going to *prevent* their authors from making their work available for free, thereby *guaranteeing* that any Bad Stuff that possibly could happen, will happen?

Now, in truth the "Bad Stuff" is "you might miss out on the publicity that naturally arises from giving away promotional copies of any product", making their entire goal of "protecting" authors from that fear eminently questionable in the first place (on both idealistic and pragmatic grounds). But even supposing that the reader agreed with this goal, how exactly are they supposed to believe that this course of action is rationally calculated to attain it?

45:

Charlie:
The problem he faces is in trading off intangible business goodwill (from, hypothetically, giving away free books to Hugo voters, and from one of his titles winning the award) against somewhat-more-quantifiable-but-still-hazy lost sales (many of the Hugo voter packet downloaders are not lost sales because they wouldn't, for example, have bought the entire Wheel of Time series anyway). So: intangible A versus intangible B. The trouble is, he's open to attack/criticism if he does anything innovative -- and would find it difficult to prove the benefits.

He failed to account for the downside - negative fan / interwebs / social media reactions, bad publicity, complaints, etc etc.

Even if people aren't calling him and badgering him, I am willing to bed he's sliced mid to high single digit percentages off future sales from the bad PR.

I think he's ALSO catalyzed a couple of US based publishers to consider hiring some local editors, PR reps, and the like, and start distributing into the UK market as an extension of the US market, which will shave anywhere from low double digits to the entire future existence of Orbit as a company off future sales. There are another 25% or so possible readers over there, after all, and if the local publishers are going to be that provincial, why the heck not just wander over and take them?...

46:
There are a lot of different attitudes to the idea of giving work away for free, but we hope most people would agree that writers and rights holders should be able to make their own choice, without feeling that their decision might have negative consequences.
I found that rather disingenuous. I agree that, as rights holders, they have the right to do what they wish here. But no one has the right to expect that their decisions will not have negative consequences.

Freedom of speech != Freedom from criticism.

47:

Scalzi did a lot to continue and promote the Hugo packet, but he didn't invent it nor create the first one.

48:

There are another 25% or so possible readers over there, after all, and if the local publishers are going to be that provincial, why the heck not just wander over and take them?...

It's. Not. That. Simple.

(Hint: Orbit operates globally, in the USA and Australia/NZ as well as the UK: they were built that way from the ground up by Tim Holman in the 00s, and he put a lot of sweat equity into making it work. Tor is a global brand ... but Tor in the UK is operated as a brand by Macmillan, while Tor in the USA is an arms-reach publishing subsidiary of Macmillan with its own management. The operational contrast is fascinating, because it's worth noting that the publishing market is very different -- US book covers look garish/don't sell to British consumers, price points are different (especially in ebook land), the distribution systems are different. So it's more efficient to franchise the brand out to different teams, but then you run into hilarious political bickering. (Or not-so-hilarious if you're caught in the middle, but there's stuff I cannot speak of in public.) Short version: Orbit are better at that game than their rivals.)

49:

I think I can find a rational for what's going on in CEO's head, one that ties in with the general attitude.

He's seen what happened to the music industry. Copying of MP3s cut sales of physical media dramatically and reshaped that industry into one where single song are both the norm, and effectively advertising for tours (the artist gets virtually nothing). Labels still make money off those sales, but it's a tenuous position to be in - eventually they will get cut out as gatekeepers.

The CEO doesn't want that to happen on his patch, but has to get on the eBook bandwagon. Hence the DRM, hence the desire to protect the old business model, at least till he can retire.

Now comes along a minor award competition where they've got themselves into the mess of giving away the product - and in doing so devalued it. If he can, he's going to put the brakes on that (and he can when he has a monopoly of the nominees).

At the bigger picture this comes back to the disagreement with Charlie on the role of publishers, eBooks, and how the model will need to shift. We should never be in a situation where a paperpusher is telling the creator what they can or cannot do with their work. Service provider rather than master is their role in the future - that we are otherwise today is an accident of history (that they will do anything to maintain).

Ahh well, it's not as if copying has gone away. Anyone who doesn't have these books and wants them, but not to pay the publisher, is quite capable of acquiring them. Downloading is probably one of the few forces actively pushing business models towards the customer. Even though it seems to increase long term sales, it's no wonder they hate it.

50:

It seems possible that, because Orbit didn't have decision authority, the status of Wheel of Time wasn't on his radar. Tor announced the decision pretty quick, after all.

51:

"I get that the announcement from Orbit is not necessarily indicative of the true reasons for their decision, but I've read it multiple times and I'm having trouble even figuring out what *ostensible* reason they're intending to offer."

And these are people on the business of selling words to us. Doesn't this guy employ anyone he trusts to cast an eye over a notice such as this. Not even in the PR or sales departments?

52:

The CEO doesn't want that to happen on his patch, but has to get on the eBook bandwagon. Hence the DRM, hence the desire to protect the old business model, at least till he can retire.

You misunderstand his place in the org chart. And his personality. Disclaimer: I've known him/of him since he was John Jarrold's assistant at Simon and Schuster in the mid-to-late 90s, and we've been talking business face-to-face and by phone on an irregular basis since about 2003. He is, after all, (a) my publisher, and (b) the boss of my last three editors at Orbit.

Tim is not the CEO of Hachette; he's CEO of Orbit, a subsidiary of Little, Brown, which is in turn the English language arm of Hachette. He's one of probably a dozen or so CEOs within a sprawling multibillion euro turnover multinational conglomerate. This means he's both more and less influential than you think.

Hachette, you will remember, is a French corporation. This has both good aspects and bad aspects. The good: they're far more loyal to their people than observers used to the American corporate culture would ever expect. (Example: in the 2008 recession, in September, the New York publishing industry shat the bed and downsized by approximately 10%. The sole exception among the big six was Hachette: their line was, "this recession is temporary and we'd be fools to fire the experienced staff we'll need when business picks up again." They settled for a hiring/pay freeze, and ran at a loss for a couple of years, as the price of maintaining their highly skilled work force.)

The bad: their entire attitude to intellectual policy is, shall we say, un-American. They come from the culture that gave us Victor Hugo's Moral Rights model for copyright -- an alternative to the UK/US copyright model -- and the HADOPI law. They see themselves to some extent as a cultural touchstone, not merely a money-making company ... and by the same token, they have to make money in order to keep the cultural banner flying. And they take a dirigiste approach to setting group-wide policy: people are consulted, but when a decision is taken it's enforced as rigorously by the executives as a parliamentary party's three-line whip. (The cost of a job in government is that after the discussions are over, you commit to supporting your government's policies 100%.)

The insistence on DRM is enshrined in corporate policy and is dictated from above Tim Holman's level within Hachette. In fact, I have no idea what Tim really thinks about DRM because, as a senior executive, he knows far better than to contradict or criticize corporate policy within earshot of an indiscreet blabbermouth like me. He is able to muster an impressive range of arguments on the subject, which are considerably more nuanced and complex than the usual rhetoric that filters out into the public gaze via media reporting: if he ever wanted a change of career he'd make an excellent front-rank politician (which is, of course, part of the job description for a senior executive within a conglomerate).

As for retirement, don't hold your breath: Tim is about my age. He's a very smart, energetic, hard-working, guy. I enjoy arguing with him, but I often -- usually -- lose: he's extremely sharp. And while we often disagree, I give him due credit for disagreeing with me for what seem to him to be good reasons. I don't think he's got a good gut instinct for the internet, much less for the weird interaction between SF fandom and social networks like twitter, but that's by no means unique among publishers (quite the opposite, actually).

In summary, he's pretty much the exact opposite of your image of a stick-in-the-mud fat cat media executive who's content to rest on yesterday's laurels and use this as a basis for seeking to extract tomorrow's rents. And you know what? If he wasn't, he wouldn't be my publisher.

53:

Ahh, you didn't tell me the french were involved. Well that explains a lot. Bloody minded intransigence from a higher level (BTW 'CEO' in this is whichever level is setting the policy).

None of which changes the essentials as far as I can see - they are seeking to hold on like grim death to a business model that they fear is under attack - and it should be under attack.

One wonder's how "Victor Hugo's Moral Rights model for copyright" squares with a disconnected highup setting diktats on creators' work ...

54:

I just wanted to thank you, Charlie, for the further helpful info you've given both here and over at Scalzi's place. I still think Orbit is making the wrong call, but I'm less irritated about it than I was before.

55:

I think a lot boils down to how badly this comes off.

It is looking like people are offended, but not morally or mortally offended, and as such it will be front page until the Beale puppy instagram hits the interwebs and then everyone could well forget it, other than lingering distrust.

On the other hand, I could be wrong, and Orbit could do something to blow it up in their faces.

We are seeing that widespread social media upset is enough to force real world change upon large organizations already. There is a difference between "this appears to be one standard deviation short of being likely to light THE FUSE" and "nothing about this could change Orbit/Hachette".

He could be an entirely reasonable, really sharp guy and walk himself into a social media minefield.

56:

The question on how winning a Hugo affects sales: I can say with some certainty (because I look at the numbers every week) that right around 10% of Brandon Sanderson's US ebook sales to date for the novella The Emperor's Soul are due entirely to it winning the Hugo Award last year. Before it won the Hugo Award, its sales were tracking the sales of his other 2012 novella Legion. Since then its sales have been consistently higher.

A 10% sales boost for an already popular author is nothing to sneeze at, but it may not be the boost some posters here expected. And it would be folly to assume that this single data point can be generalized to any other work that wins the Hugo Award. But it's still an interesting data point.

57:

I can certainly understand why people who spent 40US expecting to get copies of the ebooks might be disappointed. I couldn't afford a membership, so it is really not going to affect me, but Orbit is correct in that the free ebooks in the packet are a tradition (and not a terribly old one) not some sort of law.

I think Orbit's decision is probably ill-advised, but they know their business better than I do. I think their opting out is going to give a boost to "Warbound". The two books I've read of Corerria's Grimnoir series were both quite good, and I expect "Warbound" is too. And while politics (from whatever side you are on) might make a difference, I predict it will pale in comparison to the "I didn't get my free stuff I expected" protest vote. I may be underestimating the appeal of "Wheel of Time", but it's not really my sort of thing, so its hard for me to judge how popular its likely to be.

I feel sorry for the Loncon organizers. Three internet Hugo kerfuffles (so far) on their watch and none of them really their fault.


58:

I didn't even touch the novels in last year's packet... They were all in odd formats like PDF. The shorter works were great fun to read though.

I certainly don't feel entitled to any of it.

59:

Beale puppy instagram

What has he done now? (Do I want to know?)

60:

I'm so hoping George is proposing a hypothetical 'next Hugo scandal' rather than in knowledge of something that he's not passing on.

61:

They were all in odd formats like PDF.

Ok, what do you call a "not odd" format? PDF has been around for a couple of decades, and reading them is a free download of a PDF reader for $device. Getting to edit them is harder but not impossible (and why do you want to edit someone else's IP anyway?)

62:

PDF is virtually impossible to reflow while preserving aesthetically pleasing appearance. And reflow is vital if you want to read PDFs on a small screen, like a smartphone, ebook reader, or tablet.

63:

PDF is problematic on eReaders. Or at least, on the low-res versions, where you want the reader software to reflow the text. In previous years, I for one found the PDFs almost unreadable on my Kindle Touch.

(On newer readers, with decent resolutions, I find it less of an issue. As an example, my phone has a 1920 x 1080 6" screen, which is hugely more pixels than my Kindle, and is good enough I can actually read PDFs on it.)

Calibre tries conversion, but it never made a very good job of PDF in my experience, leaving page headers and footers welded into the flow. It's basically down to the PDF document having lost too much intent on the way to that format. The main eBook formats though are done with the concept of text flow built in. As I understand it, they're much more based on HTML, which has always (absent overly-tricky web designers) been meant to allow reflow.

All of which is rather sad — if I'm having to fight the document every three screens, it somewhat spoils the reading experience.

As so often in these cases, Your Mileage Will Vary.

(PDF can be an excellent format — as a representation of printed paper it is the best I know. But eBooks don't want that.)

64:

#62 and #63 - Thanks guys. For those of us who actively dislike most e-readers as devices (I'll not be persuaded by anything short of the the ability to display large format paperback pages of 10 point as single display pages) that's something we'd not be aware of (and it's arguably a feature when you normally display PDF on computer monitors).

65:

Tip: If you want an e-ink reader for PDFs, about the only one that can display a page of A4 legibly is the (now discontinued) Kindle DX, the big brother of the Kindle Keyboard 3. They're going second-hand for about $160 (wifi only) or $210 (wifi and global 3G) on Amazon.com, probably less on ebay.

66:

@33 (Charlie Stross)
> with the exception of the Larry Correia novel
> (which is on the ballot as a protest
> nomination, not a real contender)

I understand where you are coming from, but this comment seems mean-spirited, coming as it is from another nominated author. Particularly when you take into account that the way authors get nominated have more to do with their their online following and their previous popularity among a small subsection of the fandom than with the quality of the book being nominated.

I agree, however, that Correia will not win, again for reasons having little or nothing to do with the quality or lack thereof of his book or of the other nominated novels. I'm not talking only about political reasons here: also there is the fact that Worldcon attendees tend not to be urban fantasy readers.

Therefore, Orbit's decision might be understandable (whatever they do one of their novels or series will win the Hugo). However, the way they have acted is the traditional shortsighted way the industry treat their customers: like they are suspects of trying to deprive them of their rightful money, instead of celebrating fandom and understanding that in the long run you reap what you sowed, and that an ebook given away for an occasion like this is not a sale lost, but a hardcore reader who may become a fan.

67:

My thoughts -

Ok, it won't make any difference to which Hugo 2014 nominees I'll read but if I'm choosing between new_author1 published by Orbit (group) and new_author2 published by someone_else, it will incline me towards new_author2.

68:

I got curious.

I did some rather obvious searches with Google.

All the novel nominees are available as unauthorised downloads from the usual suspects. Because of the efforts of the music industry to block access to these well-known sites, I expect I would have to make some effort to actually download the files.

But I find myself wondering just what makes the Hugo Packet special, in terms of lost sales. I don't know any ofthe numbers for illicit book downloading, but one of the offered filesets was of every book, fiction and non-fiction, on a US-based best-seller list.

It just isn't credible that somebody who downloads that set of files would have bought all of them.

Meanwhile, a person with a deep knowledge of history outlines a scheme which would restore Britain's standing in the world, and incidentally sort out the clash of cultures affecting copyright.

69:

there is the fact that Worldcon attendees tend not to be urban fantasy readers.

That would explain my Hugo win with "The Concrete Jungle" and nominations for "Overtime" and "Down on the Farm", yes? (Or are the Laundry Files not urban fantasy? Despite the zombies, unicorns, and -- coming next month -- vampires?) Or Neil Gaiman's Hugos? This year's shortlist is fat with UF, frankly, even if there's only one on the novel ballot.

I was about to suggest that the Hugo voters are prejudiced against Baen's stable ... but then I remembered the author with the current record for most Hugo awards for Best Novel ever: with a series published by Baen. Oops.

My point about Correia is that he and V* D* allegedly engaged in ballot-stuffing -- jointly advancing an example shortlist and encouraging their fans to vote for the party line. To the extent that this happened (and we'll probably find out after the awards when the usual nomination breakdown is released) then he and V* D* both picked up votes from one another's clan, thereby amplifying the volume of their nominations.

70:

Have yet to read these three books, but definitely plan to. Never mind the e-ink and PDF versions, I'll purchase the printed books. I stare at a screen all day for work and my eyes get blurry by the end. I'm old school when it comes to reading books.

71:

Just a quick note--Mobipocket Creator converts .pdf to .prc (readable on Kindle and my Palm Pilot) quite handily. Calibre also does file conversion pretty nicely, too. Free download on both of them.

72:

My apologies for any confusion; the puppy instagram was a hypothetical and not any actual incident I am aware of or have heard any rumors of. Made up example, no factual basis.

73:

EPUB is pretty much HTML. Plus some metadata (such as reading order, table of contents), written in XML. In what looks to be at least 2 generations of specification, to the untrained eye. And all that is wrapped up in a zip file, renamed as *.epub.

So if you have nothing better, you could unzip the epub file and read with a web browser. (Well, Firefox has an epub add-on).

74:

Ok, I'm a compulsive shortlist buyer. As in, you give me a shortlist, I pay sensible cash to acquire them. New writers, I'm your customer, and happy to be so.

In front of me I have Cx's first in series, everyone else's nominated books, except the Stross that turns up in paperback later, and I know that Cx's third or fourth was nominated.

I have been screaming at people about Leckie, Grant and Hurley. Go read them.

Cx's books are amusing fantasy. I don't expect to stop a being in the street and tell them that they must must must understand the way the book changes my view of *medicine*. Whereas I have had to, had to, do that with several of the others.

The useful definition of SF is that it gives you a simple way to explain the crazy edge of science to people.

75:

Well, the publisher has the right to do as they please, although I'm not convinced that overriding the wishes of their authors is justified.

From my perspective, I'll only vote for books I have read. I had already purchased the Leckie and the Stross before the short list was published. The previews of other Grant stories suggest that they might not be my cup of tea, but I'd be more than willing to read them and there's every chance I might change my mind. But I'm really not willing to buy one just on that chance, so it looks like Mira Grant will miss out on my vote again this year.

Last year I did not read the Mira Grant selections because the DRM made it inconvenient for me. I did read the Seanan McGuire selections (non-DRMed) and enjoyed them, and I've bought several of her books under that name.

I'm willing to buy Hugo nominees in paper if they look interesting, and I'm willing to consider a book that I might not have initially considered interesting if reading is made easy for me. If the publisher makes it hard, then it's going to be off the table.

76:

I'm one of those people that started voting for the Hugo's when I found out about the Hugo packet. I'm a bit disappointed with the way the novels turned out for the packet this year but it's not a huge deal. I'm really only missing out on Ancillary Justice so I put my name on the hold list for it at the library. I've already read and liked Neptunes Brood, in fact I nominated it, but everything else just isn't my cup of tea and I really doubt getting free versions were going to change my vote much.

77:

"The decision to give away free copies of our novels is simply not ours to take."

Well it bloody well should be. Apologies if I sound like a naive utopianist neophyte here, but it seems to me that publishers ought to be wary of dictating terms to the people solely and directly responsible for them to have anything to sell in the first place in a day and age when they can -and in steadily increasing numbers do- bypass the middleman entirely.

78:

You are demonstrating a willful ignorance of how publishing and copyright laws work. Stop: you do not get to do so again.

Authors can, and do, give away free copies of their books; they even sometimes hand out electronic copies, but only sparingly. Because they have, in consideration, signed over several aspects of copyright over to a second party. Which means that they are (generally) contractually prohibited from having another entity publish the work, even themselves.

Me begging an author for an electronic copy because I'm about to go on a trip? As long as that copy stays in my hands, and doesn't end up getting distributed, nobody is going to care.

Giving away thousands of copies of that book? When that number is going to be equal to, or even larger than, the hardcover sales of the book? That's going to make the publisher very, very angry. Justifiably so.

(Note that I am very much in favour of the voting packet, and am quite disappointed with Orbit, but it's not Charlie's fault, and there's nothing he can do at this point.)

79:

Hmm, I admit to somewhat mixed feelings about all this. On the one hand, yeah, I see why people are angry at Orbit. On the other, well, y'know, if you were buying a Worldcon supporting membership simply because you wanted a bunch of cheap books, I think you're doing it wrong. And yes, I've seen people who say they've done exactly that, or who have recommended the trick to their friends.

I think you should buy a membership because A) you want to support the Worldcon, or B) you want to vote on the Hugos. When you do it simply to get a bunch of cheap stuff to read, I think we have a problem. I think it may well skew the voting, and not necessarily in good way.

Now call me a curmudgeon if you want, but the last time I voted on the Hugos, you had to track down all the works on your own. So everyone who was voting had to care--at least about the con, if not the works--or they wouldn't have purchased voting rights. And yes, I left out at least one short fiction category from my vote, because I hadn't read enough of the entries, so I totally get the purpose of the voting packet. But the voting packet is supposed to let you be an informed voter! It's not supposed to be an incentive. And that's where things get tricky.

I don't want to bring in any slippery slope argument, but let's just say that I can see why publishers might be concerned about the direction things are going. And while I definitely think it was a dick move to do it this late in the process, I ... well, as I said at the beginning I have mixed feelings. And I'm not really sure I see an ideal solution.

80:

Charlie, an off-topic question (but it has to do with publishing):

Having read the Laundry novels and the Merchant Princes series, I've grown rather fond of near-future, alternate-universe SF. So, to fill the gap until the next books come out, I want to read Halting State and Rule 34.

Thus I want to buy them as ebooks. On amazon.de both the Orbit and the Ace editions are available, but with a slightly different price tag (Orbit 5,70 €, Ace 4,15 € and 4,17 €, respectively). I've noticed that with your other books, too. As customer I can (and have to) decide which version I buy. And the price difference is small enough that it doesn't really matter that much.

So I'd be interested to know whether there are arguments for one or the other from your perspective. For instance: Does me making the more expensive purchase increase your bottom line (even if only by a very small amount)? Or only the publisher's? Also, are there differences between the two editions, other than the artwork on the title? British and American spelling? Other differences? Is there an edition that you prefer and would recommend, and for which reason?

My decision to purchase the Orbit editions of the Laundry novels was mainly based on the artwork, by the way.

Thanks in advance for taking the time to answer this!

81:

Is the BBC sending out a DVD for the "Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form" award, upon which they have a similar lock to Orbit's on the "Best Novel" award?

No?

Can't blame them.

82:

Apologies if I sound like a naive utopianist neophyte here, but it seems to me that publishers ought to be wary of dictating terms to the people solely and directly responsible for them to have anything to sell

They've got those rights (not in perpetuity, but for the duration of a countract) because I signed the contract, in return for money. Enough money to live off for a period of time roughly equal to the period it takes me to write another book, i.e. a year's gross income for a self-employed professional.

(This is not a pittance. I know that the average novelist earns fuck-all, but a lot of people do it on a hobbyist/part-time/recreational basis, and many others have other primary sources of income: for me, it's a business. As a middle-aged guy with a household to support, I have to be able to earn enough from it to justify not throwing in the towel and going back to IT consultancy or something similar. No, I am not going to sentence myself to living in a cardboard box and eating lentils just because you want my books to be cheaper and think I should suffer for my art. Suffering sucks.)

I recognize your desire to have ALL THE NOVELS, ALL THE TIME, FOR FREE. I can't criticize this desire because I happen to share it. However, there is an inherent contradiction between this desire and the desire of some authors to earn a goddamn living. You may object to that desire and ask why I can't get a real job: to which my response is that I could, but then you'd get maybe one Charles Stross novel every five years -- that's my hobbyist-level output tempo -- and I'm pretty sure you'd prefer to get them more often.

If someone with ultra-deep pockets -- Google, for example, or Warren Buffett -- came along and offered to pay me a decent salary in return for me writing novels at an achievable pace and releasing them for free, I'd be amenable to that business model. Alas, we're kind of short on rich philanphropists this century: our idle rich are too busy buying solid gold toilet handles for their luxury yachts to have time to read fiction.

83:

The Orbit and Ace editions of those books are typeset/formatted from the same master files, with the same edits and same spelling. I'm not sure which ebook edition pays me more money -- I could work it out by grovelling over the contracts to figure out the conversion formula, but it's probably not worth it as they'll be within 20% either way.

84:

If someone with ultra-deep pockets -- Google, for example, or Warren Buffett -- came along and offered to pay me a decent salary in return for me writing novels at an achievable pace and releasing them for free, I'd be amenable to that business model.

Aha, I spy a new plan for when I win the lottery.
Although I suppose I'd feel guilty for the potential job losses at Orbit, Tor etc. if the idea caught on.

85:

"Calibre tries conversion, but it never made a very good job of PDF in my experience, leaving page headers and footers welded into the flow."

The quality of Calibre conversions varies immensely. I've some things I've tried to convert which seem to inter a carriage return on every page.

If you're proper Obsessive about a nice ePub reading experience then have a look at a program called Sigil which can edit the resulting ePubs into a proper state, put a proper table of contents together and so on. It obviously takes a lot of time to copy edit something, but it is now and again essential. And strangely satisfying.

86:

Carriage return on ever page there should have said every line, but now that I think about it I did find one things that turned formatted text into a solid block of stream of consciousness rambling with no breaks at all.

87:

You still need someone to do the editing and distribution work, and the rest of the production stuff. You might be able to persuade Tor/Orbit/&c. to do that for a suitable fee, especially since they'll have back catalogue that might get a sales boost.

Alternatively, set up a trust fund that buys a copy of the work in question on behalf of anyone applying. You might be able to get a discount for bulk.

Not so good for the bookshops, unless your trust buys from them instead of directly.

88:

I've never seen it that bad, granted. But I have definitely seen the "every line in the PDF turns into a line-and-a-bit paragraph in the output" effect. I found that incredibly difficult to read, and the result on my ballot was an omitted vote for that work.

(I wasn't doing any 'No Award' votes that time.)

89:

My point about Correia is that he and V* D* allegedly engaged in ballot-stuffing -- jointly advancing an example shortlist and encouraging their fans to vote for the party line

OK, I don't like practices like that either, but I still think it's a bit hypocritical to get worked up over this when most authors with internet presence are publishing lists of their eligible work and many fans are publishing lists of works they recommend for consideration regarding the Hugo nomination. What's new here, that it was an author the one who compiled the list of works? That he was openly campaigning? Is it OK then as long as one doesn't ask so plainly?

This is all an unavoidable consequence of the politicalization of fandom. When the politics of writers becomes a widespread cause to boycott or to promote them, it is only a matter of time before these considerations start coming into play in the Hugo voting. Given the way things are going I can only foresee more of it in the future, from both sides of the political spectrum.

90:

EPUB is lovely, lovely stuff to handle programmatically if and only if you really understand XML. If you don't it's a nightmarish haze of namespaces and un-comprehended rules.

Hammering PDF -- with a different set of container rules -- into good EPUB is pretty hard; there's a bunch of transcoding problems and text reflow heuristics that get involved. (the PDF nigh-certainly has no notion of paragraph boundaries whatsoever, for example.) I don't at all fault the Calibre guys for saying that in the documentation and providing a quick-and-dirty re-encapsulate mechanism.

91:

I've written code that writes PDF, and I'm not at all surprised that Calibre has issues with conversion. I've not considered feeding it some of my PDFs as input, because I know how cruel that'd be.

(Individual character placement because we must match character placement of text rendering under Java, allied with text being placed onto the page in an almost arbitrary order ... yeah, this would require middling-level AI to reliably reverse engineer it to actual text.)

92:

I do print publication layout for my day job and use Adobe CS6 for projects everyday. PDF is good for sending to clients for proofing purposes and if saved as a High Quality Print can be printed on your office laser printer. The text and images tend to look pixelated when viewed on a monitor or screen, especially when viewed smaller than the actual document size. When it comes to e-books you may want to go with programs that format to your e-ink readers.

93:

I can't speak for the commenters, but I am well aware of these facts (being married to someone who drives Adobe CS 6 and has a full Adobe workstation in the office next door to my own -- I believe in maintaining my own publishing capability just in case the entire industry vanishes down a hyperspace wormhole by accident) ...

94:

Now you're making me think about plot ideas where something makes all corporations vanish, but the authors and readers remain...

95:

Corporate sociopathy: it's subtle, but it's something that seems to pervade your writing, a scattering of your literary DNA like the faint dust of dead skin cells.

If this affair wasn't RL, it could almost be mistaken for your fiction, which is getting things bass ackwards.

There are large corporations which deliberately choose to dodge that particular bullet, but not many. They're not disasters.

Maybe the reality of Herr Dr. Ing. E. S. Blofeld, the reason why TPTB send their tame thugs after him. He cares about his staff, why else would they fight for him? And that unfortunate incident with the senior manager and the piranha? He did not have the loyalty of his subordinates.


96:

"All the novel nominees are available as unauthorised downloads from the usual suspects. Because of the efforts of the music industry to block access to these well-known sites, I expect I would have to make some effort to actually download the files."

Out of curiosity, finding and downloading Neptune's Brood and Ancillary Justice took about five minutes, including the time to convert one of them from .mobi to .epub.

I used to worry about such issues professionally for a variety of media. It remains my considered opinion that the rights holders cannot win the tech battle, can't win the legal battle without losing any friendly regard by the general customer base, and seem to be extremely reluctant to adopt an economic strategy that might let them win.

On the first front, to make use of digital formats, the rights holders have to freeze their tech. Meanwhile, Moore's Law marches on and at some point the encryption will be cracked. On the second front, you can only take so many people to court before public opinion turns against you. WRT economics, I don't think any of the media companies were/are willing to think about their business models and maximizing revenue over longer term; the movie studios and the music labels had to have such thinking jammed down their throats. The publishers will eventually; I anticipate that the big losers when it happens will be public libraries.

98:

I understand the platform leverage argument, but point out that both the movies/tv and music businesses had to adopt new pricing models for their content libraries as well. Both have the same basic structure: high price for new content, then drop it to one or two intermediate points, then basically price it cheaply enough to compete with libraries. For music, the bottom end is $0.99 iTunes or similar. For movies, Netflix with a flat monthly rate to rent several movies/shows. People will pay those amounts for the convenience of not waiting to borrow it from the library. I don't think it's an overstatement to say that Apple saved the music industry from itself, and Netflix did the same for the movies.

Publishers haven't adopted the same pricing model -- yet. I've been rereading the George Smiley novels by borrowing from the library. I'd cheerfully pay an iTunes/Netflix level price for a digital copy or to rent them instantly instead. But the non-library option is the used bookstore (~$4 if there's a copy available), or $13 from Amazon or Barnes&Noble for a paperback, or $11 for a Kindle version ($15 for the Nook version). Ultimately, the model needs to be that everything older than a certain age in the catalog is "in print" for $1, not a small subset remains in print at much higher prices.

99:

While there's something tempting about such a model, it clashes with the contract structure. Publishing contracts have break clauses, based on continuing sales, and those clauses block the "dirty trick" of selling the book dirt cheap to hang on to the rights.

The whole copyright structure around a film or music recording is different. Some authors might accept such a strategy. Some (and their heirs) may not. They still have the choice.

100:

And I'd trust Antonia's word on something like this as far as I would Charlie's.

101:

While there is nothing official I have seen on the net, my printed copy of the Worldcon PR3 has arrived, containing the Hugo Ballot forms, and I can confirm the voting deadline as the 31st July.

102:

I don't doubt that current contract structures don't fit the model. Music contracts didn't fit the iTunes model, and movie/tv contracts didn't fit the Netflix model. Nevertheless, I believe that authors and publishers will adapt. Most of them are currently throwing away the potential long-tail revenue stream that digital media enables. The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, priced at $9.74 for paperback and $9.02 for Kindle, sits at #19,381 on Amazon's best-selling list. I have no idea what that translates into in annual revenue to David Cornwell or Penguin Books; any thoughts on how that would compare to $1 for the equivalent of most library check-outs, with no printing and minimal warehousing costs? For some percentage of the illegal bittorrent downloads? And of course, most books published in 1963 are currently generating zero revenue because they're no longer in print.

103:

Publishers haven't adopted the same pricing model -- yet.

Actually, they have. The granularity is [limited edition] hardcover [trade paperback] mass market paperback [discount paperback] -- square brackets denote optional steps on the ladder. Trouble is, volumes are so low that most items get only one or two steps.

104:

Yep. It's hard to drop even a $1 on a somewhat unknown when it requires a 4 to 20 hour commitment to read the book.

105:

I don't think it's an overstatement to say that Apple saved the music industry from itself, and Netflix did the same for the movies.

I don't know about that. Once Netflix lost the rights to the Showtime rights their movie selection of RECENT DECENT movies is somewhat thin. I think the movie studios are trying to starve them out. And Netflix is fighting back with original material such as "House of Cards". And my wife and I did enjoy it. Much more than most movies that have come out in the last year or so.

106:

Peripherally & talking as we were about "Publishers" rights ( & wrongs) & platform-availability ....
There's a very strong rumour doing the rounds that Windows XP will continue to be supported until April/May 2015.
BUT
Only if you are HM Guvmint.
The tattle is that HMG has paid MicroShaft something on the order of £15 million to support ONLY IT'S OWN COMPUTERS until that date, while they complete the change-over.
The rest of us, can of course, get stuffed.

Anyone out there know the truth or otherwise of this?

107:

I think I'm failing to see the logic here? IME most £1 epub items are either "out of copyright" (and there was a pre-epub business model based on selling these titles for cost of printing plus margin, so about half what a paperback by a presently working author would command) or self-published.

As to my sanction for $unjoyable_book, irrespective of price point, it is to not buy any more books by that author without a strong recommendation from a source I trust. Even then, if I do buy and enjoy some of that author's other works, I won't buy any sequals to $unjoyable_book.

108:

I find this whole situation rather worrying as it is indicative of a monopoly situation.

This is only one instance, and could be considered s fluke. If there were were other instances, then I would not be surprised in the Monopolies Commission (or whatever it's called these days) took an interest.

109:

I think this is a bit of a fluke; there are several major publishers, and it's not even like (see various comments by Charlie) their UK and US arms always talk to each other.

110:

Well, HMG are paying something (allegedly around GBP5M, not 15) to be part of MS's official post-end-of-extended-support extended support group. The Dutch government, the USAian IRS, assorted banks and quite a lot of other big companies who've not quite finished migrating everything are also paying various amounts for continued support in the same way. There were articles about it in assorted papers just over a month ago, although they tended to focus on how "inefficient governments" were still using XP rather than the fact that a high proportion of cash machines and EPOS units do. Because obviously internet-connected machines that you type your card PIN into are not any kind of worry.

111:

The Monopolies and Mergers Commission was replaced by the Competition Commission, which has just been supplanted by the Competition and Markets Authority.

But if competition is so good, why is there ever only one of them?

112:

You might be surprised on what the copyright duration is for the recording of a performance, compared to the writtenm-down tune and lyrics. There were some changes to UK law a year or two back, just too late to stop the very first record by the Beatles from falling out of copyright.

That's what the "℗" symbol denotes, the Phonographic Copyright.

Now, don't trust me on the details, I am no lawyer, but a track on iTunes is not the same as a book. And record labels and bands sometimes get all worked up about who owns the master tapes, which cann effect the ℗ rights.

113:

That said, I did buy all 3 books, love them all and am glad I am not voting this year and don't have to choose between...just plug all 3 to my friends... :D

114:

Cash machines (ATMs) are not connected to the internet, they run on their own secured network down to the wires and switches. The ones that run XP (some run Win2000, there may be some that still run NT4) run the Embedded version of that particular operating system which is in support by MS for at least another year. XP Embedded is missing a lot of consumer attack vectors like browsers, Java Runtime, Flash, Apache, OpenSSL, graphics drivers etc. by design as it is pared back to only run a single app with no "cute" stuff.

As for card readers in shops and bars they perform encryption on the reader before any information gets transmitted (usually over an RS232 serial link) to the PC that forwards the data. If the PC still runs XP then they are as vulnerable as any modern OS to having that data intercepted but theoretically the reader encryption should secure the transaction.

115:

And I'd just like to note that Ann Leckie's "Ancillary Justice" has just won the Nebula award for best novel, to go with its BSFA and Clarke awards!

If I was a betting man, and betting on the outcome of the Hugo for best novel this year, I know who I'd be betting on -- and it wouldn't be me. (It'd be either Wheel of Time fandom, or "Ancillary Justice" ...)

116:

Well, in all honesty, you and Leckie are currently bubbling back and forth for the #1 vote on my ballot.

(I'm presuming both of you will take that as a compliment :).)

117:

I'm hoping for either Neptune's Brood or Ancillary Justice myself.

The unscientific method of checking the wait list lengths for my local library's copies suggest Ms. Leckie's work is very popular.

118:

Nojay:
Cash machines (ATMs) are not connected to the internet, they run on their own secured network down to the wires and switches.

They run on a private internet, with standard TCP/IP protocols.

"Not connected to the internet " is a polite fiction. It's not trivially routsble from public IP space.

119:
I believe that authors and publishers will adapt. Most of them are currently throwing away the potential long-tail revenue stream that digital media enables. The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, priced at $9.74 for paperback and $9.02 for Kindle, sits at #19,381 on Amazon's best-selling list. I have no idea what that translates into in annual revenue to David Cornwell or Penguin Books; any thoughts on how that would compare to $1 for the equivalent of most library check-outs, with no printing and minimal warehousing costs?

I'd suspect that it would probably be less. Because cost isn't the limiting factor in most people's book purchases, and there is (to my knowledge) no evidence of a long-tail market for popular authors that's price sensitive to make up the slack.

David Cornwell's books could be $1 - or $0.1 - and I wouldn't read any more than I currently do because there is no more space in my life for reading extra books.

If OGH dropped the price of his books to $1 I'd strongly suspect he'd make a lot less money, because the money from the market who would not purchase until that price point is a lot smaller than the money he'd get from his true-fans who buy at the current pricing levels.

120:

It'd be interesting to see how Leckie's sales have lifted as a result of the award season. I suspect that it will have been much more marked than those writers who have built a fanbase over previous works.

On the other hand, she got onto the Hugo shortlist which means enough people have already read it and admired it to push it.

(I'm most reminded of the success of Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, a decade ago.)

121:

well "here" (i.e. Germany/Austria) the Card terminals in Shops _used_ to run on dedicated S0 connections (2-wire, i.e. ISDN, basically).

Nowadays, a lot of shops and bars have small card terminals that are completely standalone and talk to their bank-side backend via the mobile phone network (no idea whether 2G or 3G or whatever, but the speed certainly feels like 2G GPRS). They quite often have no data connection whatsoever to the rest of the shop they reside in (sales person types in sales price manually).

123:

The revenue curve for ebooks in the USA has two peaks -- one under $1, and one around the $10 mark. Whereas British buyers are cheapskates and much less inclined to spend on expensive titles, according to this report. So yes, in the USA my books are priced about right; in the UK, the ebooks only sell reasonably well if bumped down below the £5 ceiling (which is a bit depressing).

124:

I'm pretty sure this conversation has run before and the real issue is that British buyers (rightly or wrongly) perceive printing and binding as being a significant part of the cost of a physical book (in this context note that publishers have used "cost of paper" as an excuse for ratchetting price points by £1 3 or 4 tiems since 1980) and expect that e-pub will allow them to benefit from the removal of this cost.

They also probably will not consider that "sales tax" of 20% applies to e-pub but not to hard copy.

125:

Charlie —

Whereas British buyers are cheapskates and much less inclined to spend on expensive titles, according to this report.

Iiiiiiiinteresting. Thanks for that. First time I've come across a UK/US difference.

paws4thot —

I'm pretty sure this conversation has run before and the real issue is that British buyers (rightly or wrongly) perceive printing and binding as being a significant part of the cost of a physical book

In my experience that misconception seems to be pretty much universal to anybody not involved in the publishing world in some way. Certainly not noticed US folk grokking it more than UK folk.

Interestingly the report that Charlie references puts it down to different business models:

In the UK, there is usually a fierce price war going on between Amazon and some new entrant; currently it is Sainsburys, previously it was Sony and Nook. But there is usually someone trying to buy market share by discounting the price. Previously we had the 20p offer from Sony, now 99p seems more common.

In the USA, the current tussle appears to be between the existing ebook stores and the new startups wanting to sell you a subscription model (aka “Netflix/Spotify for ebooks”)

Which is an interesting thought. I'm not sure I'm completely convinced, but it's certainly true that I've not noticed anything like the Sainsburys-type discount pitching in the US from Amazon competitors.

126:

For what it's worth, all three nominees are available via OverDrive at libraries that support it and have a decent selection. I read Saturn's Children last night, then grabbed "Bit Rot" from this web site and am reading Neptune's Brood that way now. I've got holds placed on the other two Hugo titles so I can grab them when they become available.

127:

Amazon are running a quite lawful fiddle on the VAT element of ebook prices. A bookseller in New York, selling an ebook direct to a UK customer, is liable for 20% VAT. Amazon, with the servers in Luxembourg, are only liable for 3% VAT.

The mills of Euro justice grind exceeding slow. The government of Luxembourg may have run foul of EU law limiting how different VAT rates can be.

The rules for VAT on physical goods are a bit different.

The problem is that the super-low VAT rate messes with competition and free-trade. It's such a big difference, and Luxembourg is taking unfair advantage. So is Amazon, and they are less than clear on the VAT rate which applies.

It also gives Amazon an advantage against non-EU ebook publishers who try to sell direct, though there's nothing to stop anyone else setting up a company in Luxembourg.

On a 99p ebook, Amazon get 96p after tax. But they make it very easy for a customer to think they only get 83p.

128:

My guess would be a false title, like "Blue Harvest".
Perhaps it's related to the new NCIS: New Orleans series? Or not.

129:

Interesting.

It certainly seems to point out that the business model associated with paper books and that associated with eBooks needs to be very different. It's no good saying the consumer is cheapskate - the consumer likes, and will pay, what they like and will pay.

As such I think the 'periodical' structure (a la Dickens), with a free first part and low priced subsequent parts - and eventually a nicely bound paper form - is likely to be a much better model than the existing one. You probably couldn't subdivide too far, but a regular 'friday release for a month and a half' could work well. Couple that social media discussion; a slight delay in release for those who hadn't bought the previous bits (so promoting non-copying) and with a 'half price paper hard back' offer for buyers of all e-parts at the end, and it would probably be more lucrative overall.

Given the hidebound and regressive nature of publishing (as is basically the theme of this page) it would probably have to be done distinct from the publishers and their backward standard contracts.

130:

And that is another idea that Amazon is using.

That doesn't make it a bad idea, but when they're doing something, it's time to sup with a long spoon.

131:

I see the serial format working for fanfic but there seems to be barriers to serialisation from novelists there are a few experiments out there but not the marketing that it needs to break through

I would have though the apstore model would be an ideal way of charging and distributing this.

Of course expect stories to start to resemble Tv series with cliff......................hangers to the next post.

But that's as old as Persia anyway

132:

Of course, I didn't really think this related to Charlie's work, as I don't think he could keep such a fun secret from us, but it got me thinking. Who could do a Stross book? Maybe Terry Gilliam? That'd be a fun business/drinking meeting to attend . . . .

133:

The big issue that I can see with serialisation - and bear in mind that it may not apply to all works, but I reckon it would apply to quite a few - is maintaining internal consistency. Currently, you write a first draft; somebody goes through and notes inconsistencies and form problems; these get cleaned up, possibly introducing a few more; repeat until it looks good (handwave, handwave.) If you write and put out the first chapter (say), then chapter two, then chapter three, and suddenly realise that for chapter four to work, you needed to have a MacGuffin (or a Plot Device, or Chekhov's Gun) to be introduced in the first chapter ... you're in trouble. Not necessarily insurmountable, but .. yeah.

It can be made to work, but I'm not convinced that it would result in the books that are thereby made available being as good as those currently published (yes, yes, Sturgeon's Law and all that).

134:

Serials are eminently doable & have a long history in many storytelling media. Granted it is a different mode of writing because parts are published before the whole story is complete, but there are a number of 'tricks' a writer can use to mitigate that disadvantage.

See also Charles Dickens.

135:

Went out & boought Ancilliary Justice as I need to make up my tiny mind for Hugo-voting.
Good story, as a story, but severely dissapointed.
In spite of the mention of "Roman" influences in the afterword, I got a very strong flavour of a super-sized Shogunate Japan, sealing itself in, ruling with great, but consistent cruelty.

However, suspension of disbelief collapsed completely on the finding that this super-advanced, technological "civilisation" had a multi-theistic pantheon of "Gods".
Oh yeah?
And you want to sell me this bridge, for scrap metal?
Really?
NOT impressed

136:

I must admit that I didn't find that to be a problem at all. Bear in mind that the viewpoint character is an AI a couple of millennia old, the ruler will be older still, and the annexation "process" is designed to eliminate all resistance. Over that timescale I suspect religions will be forced to merge or perish. (Compare current religions that are built on top of (and incorporated whole chunks of - file the serial numbers off and everyone's happy) what was there before. It may not make much sense but that is how it evolved.)

It's an interesting story, set in an interesting universe construct, and a worthy entry for the award. (So much so that it's hard on the heels of Charlie's novel. IMAO, of course.)

At some point I need to download the voting packet and see what the rest of the field is like. (Also see about DVDs for the Dramatic Presentation award, but that may be more expensive as well as time consuming - I can't watch them on the bus to work.)

137:

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on May 13, 2014 12:03 PM.

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