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Rule 34

Rule 34 of the Internet states, "If it exists, there is porn of it. No exceptions."

And now there's a novel. Due out on July 5th in the USA in hardcover and Kindle from Ace, and on July 7th in the UK in a trade paperback from Orbit.

(Note about ebook editions: The US Kindle ebook will be available on the day of hardcover publication in the US. There will be a Kindle edition in the UK but there's a hangup between the Orbit and Amazon databases: it should be fixed shortly and I'll update this entry with a link to the UK Kindle edition when I get it. Also note: I'm seeing $15.76 on for the US hardcover, and $12.99 for the Kindle edition. But some folks report seeing $18.61 for the Kindle edition. Amazon are known to do differential pricing — showing different publishers different prices; if you get the silly price complain to Amazon, not me.)

Oh, and I have some book covers for you:

Rule 34 (1) Rule 34 (2)

Which do you think is the British (Orbit) cover, and which is the American (Ace) cover?



Can I go with American in white on the left and British in orange on the right? :)


Review blurbs from Denver Post and Chris Brookmyre suggest US and UK respectively.


Exactly what I was going to say.

A new Stross ... I can't wait. (Okay, I have to wait ... it won't be easy, though.)


::squee:: Pixel cover! Know what one I'll be grabbing!


Amazon Price    New from     Used from
Kindle Edition  $18.61       --         --
Hardcover       $15.76       $15.76     --

Paper, printing and shipping apparently still have negative costs to Amazon ...


US cover on the left and UK cover on the right.
The UK cover looks like it was done by the same person as the Halting State cover.
Can't wait for this one.


Yes, US is left and UK is right - they both look like they're trying to follow in the footsteps of the respective Halting State covers.
Which is a shame because I love the UK Halting State cover, but I don't love this Rule 34 one. Being in Oz, it's a toss-up which one I'll get - some imports of the US hardcover might arrive first, but I think I might wait for the UK edition.


Ah - especially if it's tpb in UK edition! I don't like those nasty heavy awkward hardcovers :) Yay.


The ebook is on a international level is seriously broken..

I switched last year from a SONY ebook Reader to a kindle, because Waterstone stopped selling ebooks to europe (i live in austria). There where no other legitimate sources for english ebooks in austria as also the american sellers started to clamp down on selling ebooks on a international level.

Now, the Amazon kindle store has an american store, a UK store, a european - international store and a german store. Each sell a different set of e-books..
I can't buy ebooks from either the UK or the american store but I can buy a ebook from the international store or from the german store. (I am currently not switching to the german store as I still have 100 $ as voucher).

Now the bottom-line is I can buy a hardcopy - papaerback book from the UK, -which I won't do, as my better side won't allow any new books into the appartment- BUT I can't buy an ebook...

Honestly, i am really trying to get my ebooks from a legitimate source. I am also prepared to wait for a month..


Nicoaltiva, are messing with your head with differential pricing again. Because I am seeing ...

Kindle Edition $12.99
Hardcover $15.76

(Note that SRP for the hardcover is nominally $23.99 -- the $15.76 reflects a whopping great discount. Which comes out of the publisher's -- and my -- share of the cut.)


I can't help observing that the cover designs both pass on the obvious sales and attention potential of Rule 34. "If it exists, there is porn of it. No exceptions." ... but we're not going to even hint at anything like that on the jacket.

Given the sales smarts of our esteemed host, I'm sure this is a deliberate decision with an interesting rationale. Probably something to do with where it gets shelved. Or a commitment to artistic integrity over cheap thrills. Or it's the boring rationale (authors get little say in covers).


American on the left, British on the right. The left-hand one looks like my US-edition Halting State; also, it's dominated by a human figure, which is far more common on US covers than UK ones.


Paper, printing and shipping apparently still have negative costs to Amazon ...

They are also able to get used books before the book is even released. Time travel?


David, I agree the system's broken.

The reason: books in English are sold separately in different territories. This goes back to the pre-cheap-shipping age, when shipping dead trees across the ocean was Expensive. It persists because, well, I can sell North American rights to a US publisher for $X, and UK/Commonwealth rights to a UK publisher for roughly $0.5X. But nobody's going to pay me $1.5X for world rights -- they'll strong-arm me down to $X. So authors get more money by negotiating the rights split.

When ebooks came along, the contracts for publication were just amended to include ebook rights along with hardcover and paperback rights. And they remain territorially encumbered.

Now, this shouldn't affect the readers. With dead tree books, the reader's immunized against the "region encoding" in the system because of the first sale doctrine -- the books were paid for at the point when they were shipped out of the country they were printed in.

But ebooks ... it's just a mess.

Unfortunately it's not a mess I can fix for you unless you expect me to take a 33% cut in income. Okay?


Duh. So it is. I knew that, really I did. The boring rationale it is. Sorry.

It does seem an obvious direction to go down - apologies for implying it was you who had missed, or passed, on the trick.


Is the UK Kindle delay down to Orbit being a bit rubbish at getting ebooks out on time or do Amazon make it more complicated to release a UK Kindle book for some reason?

I had to wait a week after the hardcover launch to get the UK Kindle version of Embassytown. It was very frustrating.

If the UK one isn't out at the same time as the pbook I'll probably just switch regions and buy it from the US store. That two day release delay is a bit bizarre too.

I don't think I'll ever understand the publishing industry :)


So, what you really have to worry about is not the timing of the releases or the cost but just how long until there's a XXX fanfic version. Let's start a betting pool.


Also for the record I like both covers. However I also loved the US cover to Saturn's Children...


"It persists because, well, I can sell North American rights to a US publisher for $X, and UK/Commonwealth rights to a UK publisher for roughly $0.5X."

That is just the point, that I don't understand. Under the EU common market, I should be eligible to buy your book under UK terms. After all,
EU != rest of world

"Unfortunately it's not a mess I can fix for you unless you expect me to take a 33% cut in income. Okay?"

The question though is, how many sales are lost by not selling the book in the first place. There are other, illegal sources for ebooks. After all copying a digital book is trivial.


Is the UK Kindle delay down to Orbit being a bit rubbish at getting ebooks out on time or do Amazon make it more complicated to release a UK Kindle book for some reason?

My editor's chasing it up right now.

Different publishers have different internal processes. More to the point, they're effectively maintaining databases of their product lines and republishing these to Amazon's stock database. Something got wedged between Orbit and, and Orbit are now trying to debug it so that the Kindle edition starts showing up. The ISBN for the Orbit (UK) ebook edition is ISBN 978 0 7481 1635 5 -- you may be able to see it via other ebook stores before it shows up on Amazon.


It does seem the white (American) cover is the likely to itself be 34'd.

I will have a hard time deciding between the kindle and hardcover editions.


You are correct; if the EU competition commissioners are paying any attention to Amazon and the European publishing industry this should be is on their radar.

However, there's surprisingly little money in book publishing. And anti-trust investigations move very slowly. Something might get done about it by 2030 -- or not. By then, I expect the structure of the industry to have changed radically, making it a moot point.


Didn't you say once that the main character of Rule 34 wears a suit, doesn't have tattoos and doesn't use a gun? Did the US artist even read a summary of the book??


Points to note about the US cover:

* the main female protagonist is a late-30s detective who wears a business suit to the office and doesn't carry a gun

* there are no tattoos in the book

* nobody gets shot

(See also.)


Really? That cover was terrible in pretty much every way. It looked like something a self-proclaimed artist with no experience knocked off in Blender after importing a model from Poser.

I'm not an artist, and I'm certain that I could have crafted a better cover than that.


Re the US cover - When did you start writing conventional "Urban Fantasy" Charlie? ;-)

Actually, I think I may have just explained why this cover art was chosen, despite its lack of relationship to the novel?


The US cover is totally appropriate. You just have to get into the mindset of coming up with porn to go with an inappropriate urban fantasy gal with tats and a gun currently wandering around Scotland trying to figure out how to get into a Charles Stross novel.

I don't know about anyone else but I'm certainly aroused. I bet werewolves and vampires don't get mentioned once.


Well, I am sure, there soon will be porn about the US cover. In any case ... preordered onto my Kindle :) I must say that the covers are very US and very British respectively - Ghost in the Shell + The Girl With the Digital Tatoo vs. IT Crowd'ish murder mistery.


The covers look awesome.

Will there be an edition from the Apple iBookstore (and/or in a non-kindle format) as well?


How about iBooks? :D
(it's very nice to see that more of your stuff is appearing in the iBooks store, btw, although I assume that the timing has nothing to do with you directly)


Don't know about iBooks.

(As Kindle has 80% of ebook sales at present, it's a minority pursuit.)

NB: I have literally nothing to do with my publishers' decisions about how, when, and at what price to issue ebook editions.


On the other hand, the US cover does look as if it could be a cover for one of Justina Robson's Quantum Gravity books.

Which are published by Gollancz.

On the third hand, Lila Black is a kickass gun-wielding demon/elf-consorting cyborg babe.


By the Way, it is possible to order Rule 34 from the european/german ebook store. I ordered it at roughly double the US price ($12.99):

Items Ordered
Rule 34 [Kindle Edition, Pre-order]
By: Charles Stross
Sold By: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.



US on the left going by the font. But the UK cover doesn't resemble the halting state cover very much. There's a small element of pixel art, but the random vector icons and lack of isometry ruin it. The handcuffs do evoke rule 34 a little bit.


Congratulations on your new book coming out. Can't wait to read it.

I figured the lady was the US cover, and—as someone who haunts the science fiction aisle—I would say it's not too bad, comparatively speaking.

Looking forward to seeing you speak during your Bay Area phase of things.


Australian readers/buyers might be interested in
It grabs all the latest prices from about 50 online and brick'n'mortar shops (inc. Australian, US and UK) and spits out the prices including delivery to Oz. The cheapest listed (Amazon US) may not be the cheapest when you factor in delivery (bookdepository UK).
All the prices in AU $.


Does it annoy/puzzle/worry you that you get a larger % of the sale price of the book from being the guy who provides the affiliate link vs being the guy who actually wrote the book?


On 4th other hand (going one beyond Gil the ARM), I've read Quantum Gravity book 1 and not rushed out to buy book 2. OTOH I started reading Charlie's works about 3 years ago, and am now "caught up" with his entire back catalogue.


Nope, because I get more in royalties from the book sale than from the referral link -- by around an order of magnitude.

The referral kickback is a piss-poor compensation for Amazon ruthlessly cutting the price (on which I get a percentage royalty); it makes up for maybe a quarter of my lost profits.

(Have I said how much I don't like Amazon recently?)


You have tabulated prices, but commented on costs.


I thought the first QG book was rubbish; I skim-read the second in the library over an hour or so, and reckoned it was rather better. The third I gave a quick glance and decided was worth reading properly, and thoroughly enjoyed. They definitely get better (at least for my taste) as the series goes on. I did also go and dig out some of Robson's (award-winning) other stuff after reading the third, and enjoyed that as well. But I don't think the first two "Quantum Gravity" books represent her very well.


Never mind the cover - is the book any good?
Personally, I found Stross by stumbling across Colder War on the net. I thought it a work of genius and am sorry it never got made into a full novel (or even series). Then discovered the Laundry...


I really like Amazon's "Digital List Price: $25.95, Amazon Price $18.61".

Amazon sure saves me a lot of money compared to that high price that evil Amazon would've originally wanted on their monopoly product (except they're really overcharging $5.62).


I just want the time saving hypno version where I get a plot summary and a posthypnotic suggestion that I really enjoyed it. Best 30 second of reading, ever.


If I could summarize the plot in 30 seconds I wouldn't have bothered wasting 108,000 words writing it at book length ...


Great news - I'm vacationing in Scotland in July and will pick up a copy for the return flight.

As to the cover art, I know the cover on the right is supposed to be all retr0 hipster but I find the cover on the left to be far more enticing)


Although this US cover is not nearly as bad as Saturn's Children, I still say you are an artist who suffers from your art. Generally, SF covers are horrible, but some of the ones inflicted on you are...

Secondly, everyone is complaining about Amazon's ebook pricing. I own a Nook from Barnes and Noble so I can't get this book at any price.


Yes you would.
A single side of A4 does not command much of a price


Lucky I'm in Germany, I get the cover that doesn't make me feel embarrassed to read sci-fi, and I won't get the 'I'm not sure I believe you' looks when I try and explain, 'Charles Stross … he writes really strong female characters', for values of strong excluding guns, tattoos and lazy sexism.


Point of note: both my editors (at Orbit and Ace) are female. So, unless I'm very mistaken indeed, are the art directors.

And an update: The UK Kindle edition should be showing up for pre-order on in the next 2-3 weeks, and should be available on the UK publication date along with the trade paperback. (Ace copy-edit and typeset my books, and Orbit buy in the typeset files from them: so the UK production cycle lags a couple of weeks behind the US.)


Alternatively, 18 € on, which is significantly more.

Someone should teach those guys that 1 $ != 1 €.

I am also sad to admit that I prefer paperbacks, not just because they are cheaper, but because I read mostly during train rides, and hardbacks are a pain to lug around.


But if he could condense this to 30 seconds, then he could have spent the rest of the time working on something else that he was also paid for.
(And if he could condense it to 30 seconds, there would probably be negative reviews saying that it would work better as a short story, so there is an incentive not to pad, as well as no incentive to do so while he has a queue of work.)


Don't be; I prefer paperbacks because I can fit 2 or 3 into the space and budget needed for one hardback.

Before anyone says $e-reader, we have a Kindle at work, and it's just not the same as a dead tree. In particular, it doesn't feel as nice and doesn't put as many words on the viewing area at any given time.


I thought the cover to "Saturn's Children" was rather cheesy, but I have to say, from the Amazon pic, "Rule 34" is a good, eye catching image. It should stand out very well in the bookstores, especially against all the dark vampire fantasy books that seem to have taken over the SF bookshelves these days.

Thumbs up to Ace on this one.

Question for Charlie. Should I get to the reading at Borderlands in SF, will I need to buy a copy at the store for a signing (a courtesy, perhaps, if noting else), or are they OK with bringing in a copy, as I really want to read this asap.


Policy on bookstore signings varies with the bookstore. However, in my experience, in general they don't mind you bringing your own copies (although it's polite to buy something while you're there unless they're charging a door fee, which I don't think Borderland plan on doing).


The subscription charge is £3 per month. Or €3. Or $3. Choose your currency.

Funnily enough, I'm paying $3.


As a Bostonian, my best option for getting this book in hardcover is Borders. Is that a good place to go to ensure you and your publisher get a good cut?


It's not a bad place, but if you're willing to support your local SF specialist bookstore in Boston, how about buying from Pandemonium Books and Games instead?


Hardcover pre-ordered; I'll get the ebook once the price drops to $9.99 (usually around paperback time).

Sorry about the royalty cut, Charlie, but I expect you'll sell a lot more on Amazon at $15.76 than you would at J. Random Bookstore at $23.99. (You've got guaranteed sales in every format to True Fans like me, of course, but unfortunately, we're not QUITE taking over the World yet!) Hopefully you'll make it up in volume.


Say, good call! I'll pick it up from Pandemonium. Thanks for reminding me, Stross. Sorry I missed your book-signing there.


Can't wait for this... (UK cover on right BTW)

On the Amazon UK Kindle Store's relationship with publishers. It is rubbish...

I mean what brain damaged moron decided that Asimov's Foundation and Empire would make an ideal book from the trilogy to make available on Kindle without doing the other two (In fact I have spotted at least one other trilogy where the UK kindle store has book 2 but not the others) /end rant


(regarding local SF specialty shops)...wish I still had one in Atlanta, but no joy. I love to support local stores when I have an option. I am spending time in Charlotte, NC recently (my gf lives near there), so if I can find a good store in the area, I'll buy a copy there for her!


Any good SF bookstores in London, apart from Forbidden Planet?


If you find one, let me know. (The one that used to be in the basement of Murder One closed a few years back, and then there was one ...)


Back in my student days there was one in Soho called "Dark they were and Golden Eyed". Closed down in mysterious circumstances and much weird rumour. IMHO it was better than its competitor, FB


(Have I said how much I don't like Amazon recently?)"

I agree... so why is there no ebook edition other than the Kindle? It's all well and good saying that Amazon has an 80% market share of ebooks, but by not releasing an epub edition of the book, you are solidifying their (near-) monopoly!


Amazon is showing 12.99 for the kindle price for me at the moment. Barnes and Noble is also showing 12.99 for the nook version, and Google or Borders don't have it listed yet.


The ebook edition will be available in other formats than Kindle -- but as Kindle have 80% of the ebook market, I've got better things to do with my time than go chasing down a bunch of epub variants with wildly differing DRM and platform requirements. Take Barnes and Noble for example -- they don't operate in the UK, the Nook isn't sold here and you can't buy UK content for it, so I have no means of supporting it.

(And while I dislike Amazon's policies a lot, I hate Sony and despise their arrogance. So don't expect them to get any love from me.)

I'd be more willing to go out of my way to hunt down and link to ebook stores that didn't impose DRM on the product, but unfortunately that's a contractual requirement imposed by my publishers' parent corporate umbrellas. Who I only do business with because I enjoy eating and sleeping with a roof over my head.


Strange. Ordered the paperback today, before stumbling about this blog entry. (that's right, the system said "order" not "pre-order")

Even before I stumbled about a Charles snippet in crooked timber, where he says, in rule 34 he is "exploring more implications of the social networking revolution some five years further down the line …".

That really got my attention, now I can't wait.

When the deliveries start:
Can we has big discussion here?


When I ordered this, one of the recommendations was Pterry's new one, which is apparently called 'Snuff'.

I'm not sure I want to think about the results of applying one to the other.


From what I've seen here so far the purchase option that gives you, Charlie, the greatest revenue is to buy a full price hardcover from a bricks and mortar store. Is that about right?

So is there any way, under your contractual obligations, for you to get more money for your books? (i.e. personally reselling any discounted/free copies you're granted/given by the publisher) Or would the effort required in such a scheme be automatically a no-win for you?


Yes, you can haz discussion, with spoilers. Not on this thread -- I'll put one up when the book's out.


Yay! Hard cover for me in a few weeks!


Given that Amazon's business model takes a bight out of your royalty check, does it make a difference to you whether we purchase the hardcover or kindle edition via Amazon? Both the big chain bookstores imploded in my neighborhhood -- Barnes & Noble and Borders shut down within a few months of each other. The nearest bookstore is now a long commute away from me. So I'm afraid I'm going to have to use Amazon to get Rule 34....


FWIW as a much younger reader I picked up most of my SF because of the cover art. If you had a Chris Foss or better yet, Bruce Pennington, you had my money in all likelihood. The covers for "Dune" and "Space, Time and Nathaniel" were favourites.

And I doubt anything in the stores these days comes close to what was on UK covers in the early 70s - the Mayflower cover of Queen of Swords springs to mind.

Many a feverish adolescent night was spent visualising the Pennington covers for the ERB Barsoom novels put out by NEL, too, but that was all in the posing.



The blurbs on paperbacks are often a source of amusement. I recall that the one for UK edition of Sign of the Unicorn actually attributed the contents of the book to the wrong character.


US - left. UK - right.

How anyone can prefer the US version is beyond me when it has zero correlation to the story. Though it does remind me a little of Mirror's Edge, got that going for it.

Also for those trying to avoid amazon, don't forget the book depository - - it is dearer but they're doing a 10% off promotion until the 31st if you enter May11 at the checkout so t'aint too bad.


Surprised nobody but me sees a stylistic similarity between the cover on the right and the Orbit version of The Fuller Memorandum, but maybe it's just in my head.

I definitely prefer the one on the right, though it's not as good as the Halting State cover - I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I bought that book almost entirely based on liking the cover art.

On a different note I'm happy to hear that it'll be available in paperback - I really don't like hardbacks and I resent having to either pay more for something that I want less or wait maybe a year for a book to come out in paperback.


On hold at the library already! Will be purchasing at some point as well, of course, hopefully when I can get an electronic copy that plays nice with my Kobo.


The US cover bears a slight resemblance to the US version of Halting state; the UK covers likewise. Please note I wrote "slight"; I'm not entirely blind. Definitely prefer the UK version, though.

dick breure @66: I encountered DTWAGE as an impressionable teenager in the 1970s, and blame them for my collection of Cerebus the Aardvark. All three bloody hundred issues of it.

roxysteve @77 and other interested beings: there's a Bruce Pennington exhibition at the Atlantis Bookshop in London from 29 July to 27 August.


@ 64-67
"Dark They Were & Golden-Eyed"
Yes, well, a couiple of my much older books still have DTW&GE stickers on them...
The shop was in the seedier part of Soho, (both times - thry moved at least once)and I did wonder what substances the staff were ON - though on reflection there may have been a time-loop connected to the Laundry in operation.....

A friend of ours had to explain to her Bank Manager why so many cheques were going to DTW&GE, and who/what they were.


The fine people at Borderlands have no such policy, nor TTBOMK have they ever had one. The notion of such a practice came as a bit of a shock to me; I first heard of such a policy only after attending another Borderlands signing event.

I am certain that, were Borderlands ever to require such a policy, they would make it abundantly clear to all parties in advance. I'm equally certain that, were you were unable to find anything else to purchase whilst there, the proprietors would view this as entirely their own fault – because they really are that good.

(Says the guy who just bought xkcd Volume 0 in their store).


Before my time, but I understand that DTW&GE was also the base of Fortean Times in its earliest years, and /that's/ a Laundry front-operation if you ask me!


"It's a bookshop in Soho"
No problem.


Yeah, we used to have a local SF store just outside Manassas, but the store itself was way too small for what they had. I'm a large woman, but I couldn't walk straight in between shelves, I had to go sideways. Things were never organized where you could find them, and they were open when the owners felt like it. I figure that's one of the primary reasons they had to close.


Huh. My library has four on order. This will work well because our bookgroup is reading Halting State next month.


Darn. I don't want to wait for this; might have to get that Kindleified version and apply some make-so-I-can-read-it-on-my-Nook-voodoo.

Or, well, I guess I could go down to Powell's and buy one of those big, heavy, folding doodads with the unrefreshable, bendy displays.


Just for the record, there's already a rule #34 novel:


The one on the left looks very similar in style to the US edition of Halting State I own, so I'm going to guess that one is the US edition. (By the by, I much prefer that style to the style used in the Singularity Sky/Iron Sunrise covers (too much copious CG) and the style of the US release covers of the first two Laundry novels (too much like a caricature) -- is there an association between the style the covers come in and the people involved in doing them? The books in a series appear to have similar designs even when they are published years apart)


the $15.76 reflects a whopping great discount. Which comes out of the publisher's -- and my -- share of the cut.)

This puzzles me. I've had to read a few book contracts and I always understood that the author's share is proportional to the selling price. So if Amazon is discounting the book, both the publisher (and so, also you) and Amazon should get less money. But your comment seem to imply that Amazon gets a fixed amount. Is that so?


Charlie, my partner slightly prefers eBooks (ideally ePub), while I slightly prefer dead tree - we are not going to buy both editions (sorry), but are flexible on which one we buy. Which purchase are you likely to see the most income from?


I've had the hardback on pre-order from Amazon US for about a month now. How come there's no UK hardback? I don't want to mess up my complete set of Stross hardbacks with a trade paperback!


(Note that SRP for the hardcover is nominally $23.99 -- the $15.76 reflects a whopping great discount. Which comes out of the publisher's -- and my -- share of the cut.)

No, it doesn't. You've explained this in the past, so I don't know why you are saying that.

The list price is just a suggested price; the bookseller pays wholesale price, always. You get your cut from the price the publisher collects. As the wholesale price is typically 50-60% of the list price -- which would be $11.99 - $14.39 -- your publisher is still getting that price, and Amazon is still making a profit, and buyers get to feel like they're getting a huge bargain. Everyone is happy.

The only time you get less is if the bookseller has negotiated a lower price than the typical wholesale price. Which you have, multiple times, explained that Amazon has attempted to do (and, I gather, succeeded multiple times). But that discount from $23.99 to $15.76 is coming from the difference between wholesale price and list price, which is not coming from the publisher's part.

As you've explained multiple times in the past.

Also, has the book for exactly the same price.


But some folks report seeing $18.61 for the Kindle edition

I doubt that highly. Since the price is set by the publisher, and Amazon is not contractually allowed to change it. If it's showing up with a different price, then I suspect there's 3rd party shenanigans going on. (E.g., someone claiming to have the book, but not legally.)

Other also: the list price for the book (in the US, of course) is $25.95, not $23.99. $15.76 is 19 cents higher than 60% of $25.95. I have no way of known what the wholesale price is, of course, I've just been told it's typically 50-60%.


Charlie, your tipjar policy continues to annoy me as I read epub. It makes perfect sense, but it is annoying. Amusingly it's ~$AUS16 for the paperback, ~$19 for the hardback according to booko. Or ~$AUS35 locally. Our local library has no plans to buy a copy, so I guess they win.


I've been trying to disentangle the various comments but have decided to try instead asking a direct question of our host. Which is "what method of purchasing yields the best financial payback to you?" Once I know that I will buy, and continue to buy, using that method.


That name takes me back. A truly wonderful store and one of the few things that could entice me into making a trip to the smoke from my idyllic country home at the time...


I wonder, I see a lot of snippets of how Amazon hits you reading through the blog, but do you have one big post talking about all of them somewhere?


spam alert 99..101


B&N lists a nook pre order. Apple (and for that matter, any ebookstore I know of other than Amazon and B&N) doesn't seem to list pre orders.

So there will be at least one non Kindle version (if you're American), which I think these days will work on pretty much anything that isn't Amazon (though I'm making an assumption that Apple has an app for Adobe Digital edition DRM).


Just read the blurb on the UK cover – hope that it's a compliment!

(Sometimes I lose nuance when translating from the UKian tongue to English. ;^)


Re prices
I am in Hamburg doing some work, and I am amazed at prices of books. Went ot a bookstore, and books that would £8.99 in a uk store, say Waterstones, are €14.99. The comment from the german hosts was that the book publishers hold the prices high.


ISTR that the Germans also charge VAT (sales tax for the d@mned colonials ;-) ) on published matter.


I wrote amazon about the kindle pricing, and they say:

I've checked our website and see that the price of "Rule 34 by Charles Stross" is $12.99 in the U.S. Kindle store and $19.95 in the Europe Kindle store.

Pricing of titles from the Kindle Store varies by your country or region due to differences in digital list prices, local market segment prices, and tax rates.

@95: thanks for calling us thieving liars.


The list price is just a suggested price; the bookseller pays wholesale price, always. You get your cut from the price the publisher collects. As the wholesale price is typically 50-60% of the list price -- which would be $11.99 - $14.39 -- your publisher is still getting that price

Wrong on nearly all counts.

The list price is "merely" a suggested price these days -- in the UK, only for the six years since the Net Book Agreement was ruled an illegal restraint on trade. However, it's a reference price against which royalties are assessed.

The bookseller buys trade books on sale-or-return, terms 90 days or 120 days, at a discount from the list price that they negotiate with the publisher on a case-by-case basis. The normal discount (which the publisher wishes they could run past everyone) is 40%. However, the bigger the company and the bigger the order, the bigger the discount they get. B&N or Amazon are routinely getting a 50-60% discount; when a new Harry Potter or Twilight book launches, the likes of Tesco or Wal*Mart may be getting 70% off SRP -- at which point the publisher makes no profit, but shifts so many books that it hits the top 5 bestsellers and sticks there (leading to knock-on sales elsewhere).

Now, the devil is in the details. Here's a (redacted) chunk of an actual book contract, describing how royalties are paid:

a) hardback home sales: 10% (ten per cent) of the recommended retail price on the first XXX thousand copies sold, 12.5% (twelve and one-half per cent) on the next XXX thousand copies sold and 15% (fifteen per cent) on all further copies sold
b) hardback export sales: [ snip - similar boilerplate ]
c) except that on all hardback copies sold in the home market (excluding special sales provided for elsewhere in this Agreement) at a discount of 52.5% up to 57.5% inclusive the royalty payable will be 4/5 of the prevailing rate, copies sold at a discount of greater than 57.5% up to 62.5% the royalty payable will be 3/5 of the prevailing rate and those sold at a discount of 62.5% or more the royalty will be 10% of the price received.

So, to clarify: I theoretically get 10-15% of the RRP (that's British for SRP) on the hardcovers, but if they're sold at a discount of over 52% I get less. If the book sells really well and the royalty escallates to 15%, but it's being sold at a steep discount (60% or more), I get an effective royalty of 9% of SRP per copy sold, and if it's discounted by more than 62.5% my royalties fall off a cliff.

Now, Amazon routinely sell for around 30% below SRP. They're not selling at a loss and it probably costs them roughly 10% to cover their own internal logistics, shipping and warehousing expenses, so they're probably starting at a 50% discount, and arm-twisting from there. So hardback sales via Amazon almost invariably pay me a lower royalty than hardback sales via a smaller independent bookstore.

Finally, Kindle/ebook pricing is a black art. What "price set by the publisher" means is that the publisher has told Amazon, "we're not going to let you price the ebook low in order to promote the Kindle platform while cannibalizing our sales of other editions". Because Amazon will do that if you sign the wrong contract with them -- they claim that Kindle is a publishing platform, that they're not a bookseller but a publisher, and that they're licensing the right to republish the book via Kindle and set the price they sell it for. But let's not go there for now.

Near as I can tell, (a) the Kindle ebook is cheaper than the discounted chunk of dead tree, (b) Amazon takes 30% - 60% for selling it, and (c) I get 25% of what goes to the publisher. I probably make nearly as much money from a kindle sale as from a steeply discounted hardback sale. In either case, it's a lot less than the price of a pint of beer per book.


That's easy: an undiscounted (or minimally discounted) hardback sold by your local SF/F specialist store. Followed by a hardback sold by a chain bookstore like Waterstones or B&N. (See immediately preceeding comment about Amazon and the effect of discounts on royalties).


Important note: in the UK, books are zero-rated for VAT. Books containing additional stuff like posters or CDROMs are not zero rated, and neither are ebooks, so anything that's not pure dead tree gets slammed with 20% sales tax.

In the rest of Europe books get taxed via VAT at 19-23% depending on the country. So a €13.99 book is actually an €11.50 book with €2.49 in tax on top.

This is another reason why I get less money from ebook sales (at least in the EU) -- everyone expects them to be cheaper than a paper edition, but there's 20% tax on top.


'true religion jeans'.

Do these guys not know what the true religion is? Oh well, they're spammers, they'll be taken last.


Eeek, got my maths wrong - please delete my earlier comment! Here's the right version (scaled properly, too):

Back on-topic, who do you think will blink first in the ebook pricing debate - retailers like Amazon or publishers and authors?


With the announcement that Amazon are opening a publishing house in New York see I think the answer will be the publishers.


I think Amazon opening a publishing house is probably an elaborate bluff. Whether it's serious or not will become obvious when we learn whether (a) it's acquiring existing careers rather than newbies, and (b) whether it's distributing books through competitors such as B&N and Powell's. Yes, hiring Kirshbaum to front it is a sign that they're serious -- but it's a lot cheaper to higher a CEO than to pump in the necessary money to set up a new corporation.

Moreover, as far as I can tell there's less money in publishing than there is in distribution. The author and publisher make a roughly 10% profit (each) off a book; the distributors split around 60% with the bookstores, and if they're Amazon they take 60% and pass on half of that to the customers. I reckon Amazon make a bigger profit from selling one of my books than I and my publisher combined.

Which is by way of saying that we don't have room to back down to Amazon. If Amazon play hardball by trying to set up an end-to-end channel (all the way from authors to readers) then the publishers will most likely reply in kind -- because if they don't, they're doomed.


The flip side of that Charlie is that Amazon cannot afford to have the publishers playing hardball with content. Better to cut them out and reduce the risk to their distribution profits.

Publishers trying to play end-to-end means fighting it out with Amazon on their home turf. Not something their obsolete business models are robust to.

I think Amazon will win, in a similar manner to concert promotions when big stars got bought up with lucrative deals.


My understanding is that Amazon doesn't make its profits from selling books.

Books are frequently a loss-leader for Amazon; books are the draw to get the punters in but the money comes from white goods and consumer items.


You're comparing apples and lemons here aren't you Charlie? Your 10% is gross profit, I'm not sure what the publisher's 10% that you quote represents, but I'm going to guess that it's profit net of printing and publicity costs, and the 60% for wholesalers and booksellers is their share of the cover price, before any overheads.

On that assumption, I suspect that Amazon effectively act as a wholesaler supplying direct to the public, and the money we save should be the retail bookseller's costs and possibly profit.


Want a bet that that doesn't apply to eBooks?

Amazon seem to be going to launch their own Android tablets, app store, etc. Becoming a publisher for all kinds of media content would make sense - an Apple for those that don't want to play the Jobs tax.


oddly, i don't buy books from amazon. i get my catfood from there though. And most recently a laptop after much shennanigans with me vs Fleabay and vs eBid with 'hind-sighted too good to be true' offers which the sellers then weaseled out of.. Amazon is a better place for those kinds of things.
But i won't buy books from them.

Now.. if i could find a good bookstore round these parts.. New Aeon Books in the Old Corn Exchange in Manchester being my own ver of the DTWAGE.


I suspect that Amazon effectively act as a wholesaler supplying direct to the public, and the money we save should be the retail bookseller's costs and possibly profit.

That's pretty much it ... except the money you save is less than the retail bookseller's gross operating revenue.


I do, but I live several hours from the nearest "decent" bookshop (for values of "decent" that require them to have more volumes in stock than I own [not necessarily more titles; they can stock multiple copies of a title] and to be prepared to order titles they don't have in stock. I'd prefer them to get to know my tastes well enough that they make sensibe recommendations too, but that's a bonus).


Would have preordered it from the US Kindle store, but it's saying the book is not available for European readers. Sad panda. Will order later.


BTW, what is this International Kindle store I hear about in this comment thread? Is it the German store, which is only available for Germans (AFAIK) and as such is not international at all?


Amazon already have a Print-On-Demand service called Clearspace, and you can self-publish through the Kindle as well. I reckon they're on that fuzzy boundary between self-publishing and vanity press myself. They do a special deal for NaNoWriMo winners, and I've looked into it, and they are pushing some extras in ways that make the deal look dodgy.

The Spontoon Islands Thrilling Adventure Publishing Collective pays better.


Hurrah for new releases!


"B&N lists a nook pre order."

Aha! Indeed it does:

$12.99 -- available July 5th, they claim.


Quick tech question.
Do the eBook versions for Nook and Kindle have to have different ISBNs?


Fantasy Centre 157 Holloway Road short walk north of Highbury and Islington Tube. Have not been in years but has an excellent second hand collection. Used to specialise in rare copies of old classics. It used to also have rare us imports.


No idea, but the answer should be "yes". (Different editions are supposed to carry different ISBNs.)


So the obvious metaquestion is, is there porn of "Rule 34"?


Thanks for the Anterior Sensory Cluster Nodes-up on the Pennington exhibition Harry.

Sadly, I'm in New York where men are men and know what they like to see on their paperback book covers, (which hasn't been Bruce Pennington's work for the longest time).

Why anyone posting here would express a preference for the cover of Rule 34 is a puzzle to me since they would undoubtedly buy the novel if it came without one and anyway they will spend less than 1% of the time they are holding the thing looking at the cover as opposed to having it face away from them.

I happen to like the one on the left because it isn't a bunch of pixelated text on a red background. It likely has nothing to do with the book contents but then neither do the covers of much of my (British) SF paperback collection, acquired between 1970 and 1984. None of the Galactic Patrol's ships bore any resemblance to the delightful flying junkpile starships that adorned the Panther Lensman paperbacks, all painted by the inimitable Chris Foss, and the Panther edition of Foundation and Empire had a clock-spring on the cover.

I liked the cover art for its own sake and bought books where I didn't already know the author based on the blurb on the back cover usually. It was always the cover art that drew me, and I have to admit that 17-year old me wouldn't have looked twice at the red covered Rule 34.

One for Charlie: I ran into Norman Spinrad a few years back at a convention (I-Con) and passed over my battered copy of The Iron Dream (a book that would certainly not see publication in today's world) for his John Hancock. Spinrad went wild because apparently he *had* specified certain graphic elements he wanted to have in the cover art, had been disappointed by the US cover which had included none of same, and had never - until then - seen the UK edition which had almost exactly what he wanted. You'd have to have met the man to understand the value of seeing him actually happy to hold a secondhand copy of one of his books.

Looking forward to reading Rule 34, whatever the picture on the front of it looks like by the time I buy it.


What part of "No Exceptions" did you miss?

Now we need to see the book, so as to see what Rule 34 porn would look like.


Was that the one with the swastika round the wrong way?


Just for your information: current prices are:

- Kindle € 14,13
- Ace hardcover € 17,50
- Little brown (paperback? UK ed?) € 15,70


Bah, B&N changed its DRM scheme, so the nook book won't actually work on anything but a nook (legally at least).


"Do the eBook versions for Nook and Kindle have to have different ISBNs?"

Self-published books that are only on the Kindle platform do not necessarily, and often do not, have an ISBN -- and as far as I know, it's not absolutely required (by Amazon) that any Kindle book have an ISBN as Amazon assigns there own tracking number.

I assume there are separate ISBNs for the Nook and Kindle versions of _Rule 34_, but in the latter case, the number is useless for searching on Amazon. Also, if there are page numbers, the Kindle book ASIN will point to the corresponding physical book ISBN -- so I'm not sure a Kindle book ISBN has much of any point.


But some folks report seeing $18.61 for the Kindle edition

*I doubt that highly. Since the price is set by the publisher, and Amazon is not contractually allowed to change it. If it's showing up with a different price, then I suspect there's 3rd party shenanigans going on. (E.g., someone claiming to have the book, but not legally.)*

No, I think Amazon has some weird software. The last time I looked for a new laundry basket, I found some that were $1000. They clearly weren't worth that much, and there were two pages of new brands/styles, so I think Amazon did it just to put a temporary price up.


Okay, temporary price is also possible.

The laundry basket issue is probably 3rd party resellers. ("Amazon Marketplace" is what it's called, I think?)


Sometimes this kind of sale price results from competing pricing algorithms- this article explains it far better than I could.


Alas, that place was closed when I last visited London on a book-shopping run in July 2010. Google also remarks: 'this place is permanently closed'. It was still in my 2007 copy of 'The Book Lovers' Guide to London' so the closure must be pretty recent.


Why do you hate Sony? Perhaps it would be a good thing for me to hate them too, and I just don't know it yet...


As near as I can tell, all the laundry hampers are in stock at Amazon. They all have real prices now, though. And they all require assembly.


The laundry hampers are all from Amazon, so I don't think they'd use algorithims for that.


They're the people who put a hidden rootkit onto an otherwise audio CD, so that anyone who put it into a computer couldn't get at the audio data. They got caught, and it's typical of their thinking.

On the other hand, I do have a second-hand Sony eReader, and it has no problem with ePub files.


Why do you hate Sony?

Where to start?

Dave Bell mentioned the infamous rootkit exploit. But that's only part of it.

Their after-sales customer service can only be described as shitty. Not regular shit, but liquishits with a side-order of cholera. (I speak from sad experience.) IBM, Apple, Toshiba, even Dell, all know how to deal with a laptop with a buggered keyboard: you either send the user a user-replaceable part and a box to return the old one, or you send the user to a service centre who'll do the swap for them, or for a fee you send them an engineer, or you uplift the laptop and return it by courier within 48 hours. Sony took eight weeks, shipped it around three different european repair centres, and charged me £160 -- for a broken key, within the statutory hardware warranty period (which is illegal, but when they're holding your laptop to ransom, are you going to argue?).

Never ever buy a piece of Sony computer hardware that you intend to use for business. They look pretty, but if anything goes wrong it's easier to buy a new machine than to get them to fix it.

(That's without going into the shitty shareware they lard their machines with, by the way.)

Sony are no better in other areas. They've got an unhealthy addiction to DRM, with which they cripple any media they sell -- not just CDs, but DVDs, Blu-Ray, and the other formats they tried to push, from mini-Disc through DAT and the funky little disks they use in PSPs. And they sue people who attempt to work around the DRM.

Finally, on the "utter contempt for the customer" side there's the insane stupidity of their approach to securing customer information -- stuff sufficiently useful to make identity theft possible, never mind credit card fraud -- on the Playstation Network. They got their come-uppance for that last month, in a crack so huge that it's been said to have depressed the market for stolen credit cards world-wide. But the point is, that hack wouldn't have been possible if they hadn't been so arrogant as to believe that (a) they could rely on the security of machines in the hands of the general public (PS3s), and (b) all they needed to do to ensure that security was to sue anyone who proposed to crack it.

Fuckwits. Utter, utter, fuckwits. A toxic combination of negligence, arrogance towards consumer rights protection legislation, and short-sighted stupidity.


Oh go on, Charlie, tell us what you really feel!

(It's a shame, really, as they have produced some nice hardware over the years.)


Why does everyone blame Sony and only Sony for that? Surely Microsoft are at least equally culpable for leaving the security holes that rootkits exploit in the Wondows O/S?



It's the difference between your cleaner leaving your windows open, and a burglar actually breaking in through them. The former is negligence, the latter criminal, and both ethically and legally, the latter is considered much worse.


See, using your analogy, I'd say it's more like your cleaner leaving your back windows open when you're on holiday, and saying to themself "It'll be okay; there's no need for me to go back and close them". That's wilful abuse of trust rather than forgetfulness or negligence.


Actually, scrub #147 - It's like you employing the same company to do cleaning and home secruity, the cleaner leaving the back windows open, remembering later and saying to themself "It'll be okay; there's no need for me to go back and close them", and the security guard seeing the open windows and saying "It'll be ok; there's no need for me to close them". In which case you're not getting the quality of service you're paying for.


More like accidentally not fully locking the front door on leaving.

Whereas Sony have wandered up and are trying to slide a credit card in through the door jamb to release the Yale lock before coming in and rifling your clothing drawers, when you just wanted them to deliver a letter.

(Writing software to have no bugs in is hard. Perhaps not impossible, but I know of no cases where it's been achieved.)


Which is exactly where your analogy falls down. Permitting rootkits is not something that you have done by omission (like not locking the Chubb) but something Microsoft have done by commission (not just leaving the vulnerabilities when the OS was first released, but not having done anything about them even when they were widely known).

Again, I'm not defending Sony, but saying that Microsoft are also guilty because they failed to take reasonable steps to secure the vulnerability.


Not fixing a bug instantly (which is what you're demanding) is as culpable as rooting?

No, not even close. Even if I leave my front door open, repeatedly, that gives you no right to walk in without permission.


I think one of us has the timescale wrong; my understanding was that the fact of the rootkit vulnerability was well-known for months before the relevant CD titles were released. See OGH on time from writing deadline to book release for the sort of timescales that some commercial media titles take from recording to release; months rather than days. That means that there are whole months in which Microsoft could have and didn't act to close the security holes, which is part of their contract with you.


"Writing software to have no bugs in is hard. Perhaps not impossible, but I know of no cases where it's been achieved."

Well I'll have a go.

10 print "Hello paws4thot"
20 goto 10


Error: Infinite loop detected
Error: Incorrect reply link

2 errors detected.

(And yes, I should have qualified it as 'software of any reasonable complexity'.)


Thanks...I'm glad I asked! I now realize I had heard some of that before, but it didn't really stick in my mind. I used to like Sony (although the last time I had one of their machines was probably a walkman), but after reading your rant I kinda hate them too.

As for laptops, for the last several years I've only been dealing with System76, a little company in Colorado that make Ubuntu-only computers. Their customer service has been pretty awesome.


Re eBooks.
I bought a Kindle a while ago and love it. I read *a lot* and eInk is way better, for me at least, than any kind of illuminated screen - ruling out tablets etc.

Anyways - I've bought a lot of eBooks - but some books that I want to read are just not available in the UK. They are in the USA as eBooks.

This left me with 4 choices:
1. Not buy the book at all
2. Steal the book from somewhere (once an eBook is available to buy - you can pretty much guarentee that someone will crack it and upload it to somewhere)
3. Buy the paper version
4. See below.

Now, prior to reading the article on the amount authors get paid I'd have probably*, and quite cheerfully gone for #2. Option 1 isn't an option - I want to read the book. Option 3 isn't ideal as I want it on my eReader, which puts me in a bad position.

So, what I do is #4. I have a friend who lives in Canadia (they should either be called Canadans or the country Canadia...) and I give him the money to buy the eBook that I want - he gets it, and emails the file to me - where I crack it and install it on my kindle. A variation on this is if my friend can't get it - I will buy the paper version and then steal the electronic version. Less than ideal - probably technically illegal - but at least the author gets some money for it and I get it in my preferred format.

It is a shame that Amazon don't let you buy eBooks from - it would still be being bought in US$ but shipped to the UK - no different to buying physical media from and having it shipped to the UK rather than using .Co.Uk directly...

*I say probably - but I've always been very keen on protecting intellectual property rights being both a software developer and semi-pro musician...


That's a bit ass-backwards!

What you can do instead is: get yourself a new gmail account. Use the new gmail account to register a new account with Do not give it a credit card. Instead, use your existing amazon account (the UK one) to log onto and buy a gift voucher. Apply the gift voucher to your other account (the new one). Tell Amazon you live at [insert street address of US publishing company here]. At this point, you should be able to authorize a kindle device (say, running on an old iPod Touch or something) and buy American Kindle store ebooks yourself using the gift vouchers. Then you can, if so inclined, break the DRM and shovel them onto your regular Kindle as unencrypted mobipocket files.

The reason Amazon try not to let you buy ebooks from if you're in the UK is down to the transatlantic rights split and a bunch of contractual boilerplate that's propagated down to the etailers from the publishers who are required to (a) abide by it and (b) diligently try to prevent violation of the rights split, for example by customers making end-runs around someone else's store. It's silly; a much better approach would be for the publishers to figure out how to mutually cross-license sales in each others' territories and get the rights restriction out of the customers' faces.

The other reason, of course, is that ebooks in the UK are liable for VAT at 20%. And if ship electronic goods (or VATable goods) to the EU, they're supposed to collect and pay VAT. This is also why you can't buy software or non-book items from for despatch to the UK (although some amazon affiliates in the US take a different view of things or are set up to handle VAT).



Makes sense (well, as much as these things do).I do recall though, about 5yrs ago buying a guitar off of It was a high end guitar (about £1200) and only available in the USA - it arrived here no problems. I didn't even get stung with import duty - which is odd. Amazon don't (I think) sell guitars anymore...

Re your suggestion as to how to get eBooks here - good idea! It never occured to me - esp as my Canadan friend has a Kindle.

Either way - I look forwards to buying the UK edition of Rule 34 for my Kindle when it comes out.


Musical instruments bought for educational purposes (if you or a member of your family are learning, but not if you're a teacher[1]) are VAT-free in the UK. Possibly HMRC simply decided that imports were sufficiently small beans that it wasn't worth checking each individual case unless the instrument was of a Stradivarius or equivalent?

[1] that makes it business purposes, you see - at which point you can claim the VAT back, but only if you're VAT registered. Which you won't be, because it would make no sense.



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on May 23, 2011 11:54 AM.

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