Fiction Opponent and Advocate of the Day


Opponent: Today’s copyright laws, changing technology, market pressures and, as usual, Amazon.

Advocate: Scott Turow, who explains in the New York Times this morning how today’s copyright laws, changing technology, market pressures and, as usual, Amazon, are creating huge disincentives for novelist to actually write novels for a living.

…the global electronic marketplace is rapidly depleting authors’ income streams. It seems almost every player — publishers, search engines, libraries, pirates and even some scholars — is vying for position at authors’ expense.

This is not a matter of greed and avarice; as Turow points out, authors have been generally accepting, and usually outright supportive of, libraries that give their work away for free — not to mention second-hand bookstores. Anyone who wants to write books for a living knows better than to entertain champagne wishes or caviar dreams. But current trends are steadily taking authors into something more like a nightmare. For example, the way search engines enable easy piracy:

And there are many e-books on which authors and publishers, big and small, earn nothing at all. Numerous pirate sites, supported by advertising or subscription fees, have grown up offshore, offering new and old e-books free.


If I stood on a corner telling people who asked where they could buy stolen goods and collected a small fee for it, I’d be on my way to jail. And yet even while search engines sail under mottos like “Don’t be evil,” they do the same thing.

And of course, Amazon is committed to making things worse. That train’s never late.

An even more nightmarish version of the same problem emerged last month with the news that Amazon had a patent to resell e-books. Such a scheme will likely be ruled illegal. But if it is not, sales of new e-books will nose-dive, because an e-book, unlike a paper book, suffers no wear with each reading. Why would anyone ever buy a new book again?

Consumers might save a dollar or two, but the big winner, as usual, would be Amazon. It would literally own the resale market and would shift enormous profits to itself from publishers as well as authors, who would lose the already meager share of the proceeds they receive on the sale of new e-books.

Read the whole article here.

Support authors here.

– Michael Moats

1 Comment

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One Response to Fiction Opponent and Advocate of the Day

  1. I question whether the new world is more accurate in attributing value than the old one. In any case, welcome, authors, to the world of people in the other arts – it’s not designed to be commercially viable, but if you want to sell junk you’ll always be able to do that, the way Mr. Turow does.

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