Bookmarked! Free Books; Pirated Books

Alan Giles, blogging for The Bookseller, yesterday wrote an article comparing Radiohead’s album experiment to the book industry. He points out:

But here’s the most surprising conclusion from “In Rainbows”; despite an explicit invitation by the band to legally download the album for free, huge numbers chose to do so illegally. Research by Will Page, chief economist of copyright organisation MCPS-PRS Alliance, and Eric Garland, c.e.o. of online media researcher Big Champagne, reported 400,000 such “torrents” in the first day, and 2.3 million over the first 25 days. Yet by any standards the album has been a huge commercial success. Page and Garland conclude that “torrents and legal downloads are complements, not competitors”.

He comes to an interesting close when he talks about the music industry’s attitude towards piracy in the 1980s:

.. the (then) record industry publicly argued that “home taping is killing music”, while recognising that hard-up students who had developed a love of music through illegally copying might become core buyers in later life.

It is worth pointing out here that piracy doesn’t affect the publishing industry as much as it does the music one. I’d be more worried about the lack of offline readers and the lower margins the publishing industry faces today than the possibility of copyright infringement. Though, on the other hand, I admit to downloading a copy of Breaking Dawn recently (ehheh!) after finding out that the Malaysian release was delayed for a week. The difference here being that I’d buy the book the instant it hit local bookstores – owning a paper copy is priceless and forever, and a lot more meaningful to me than a .lit file. (Special thanks to Sharon of Bibliobibuli for highlighting this article)

Other links worth checking out:

  • Some of my predictions regarding Pages Unbound’s close have come true: discussions about a replacement/clone site have sprung up in the PU forums. Interested writers contact Rose here.
  • The New York Times on why we capitalize our ‘I’s.
  • A long transcript answering the question ‘How Is the Internet Changing Literary Style?
  • Just found out about Yochai Benkler‘s book The Wealth Of Networks. Benkler explores the reality of making money through user generated content, though Nicholas Carr has a wager going on that the only reason volunteers still exist is because there isn’t really any way to make money off them. The book is available for free here.
  • Daniel Hall writes in The Economist about how technology is fragmenting the music industry, and – like many others – goes on to throw the gauntlet in the book industry’s direction.

If it seems that more and more people are seeing the parallels between both industries, then it is because they are. The Internet has disrupted many things for many people and the general situation we’re seeing on the ground now is mass confusion. Which equals opportunity. Exciting times, this.

PS: Alexandra Erin‘s not gotten back to me on the future of Pages Unbound, so I’m in the dark as to what her descicions are. Somebody help, please?

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Category: Bookmarked!
  • Lethe Bashar


    You bring up a belief that I’ve long held about the illegal downloading and the music industry. If bands are suffering at this point in economic history, it’s not a direct consequence of illegal downloading. Rather the markets are in transition and hence vulnerable. Bands have long been slaves to record labels, especially when record labels flourished in a fixed market (that they themselves created). Whenever there’s transition and change, there’s pain and panic.

    Alan Giles takes a much more enlightened attitude on the issue of piracy. (Why has it taken us so long to realize this fact!) As far as the music industry goes, we can make no absolute claims on the negative effects of piracy. (The movie industry might bode different results; but then again, maybe not.)

    Let’s talk about the print industry. Another industry in grave, gloomy transition. The variables slightly change, but there are similarities to draw. I see a new generation of online writers emerging; writers who view the New York Publishing world and its coterie as a dusty artifact. There may have been a time when young writers sought to find an agent and squeeze their way into the publishing houses or newspaper rooms just to make friends and build connections, but I believe the Net is making that old way of doing things obsolete. Furthermore, the money isn’t there to attract young writers, and the industry can’t afford to display bold, daring voices anyways.

    So where does that leave us but with online publishing; new rules, new game. I don’t even think you Eli, or anyone reading Novelr, fully understands these rules yet. But we’re excited, that’s for sure. Hell, I don’t get many page views but I’m glad that I’m publishing and that’s enough for me right now.

    The music industry will eventually learn to coexist with torrents just as the publishing industry will learn to coexist with online publishing. My prediction: the later will outpace the former. We can see the tide already turning in favor of open-source software. And you know what? The best things are free. I don’t need to pay for blogging software because the best one is free. I don’t need to pay for podcast software, and I also get the best technology. This is what Microsoft and Sony do not understand. They are relics of the past unable to adapt themselves to the future. Proprietary software, like the outrages of the music industry when illegal downloading first began, is a sign of an unwillingness to change.

    Television, music, print, software, movies, virtually all media, will eventually give way to a new Web interface.


  • Eli James

    I agree, Lethe. We see this transition in the hardware industry itself – I’m actually quite surprised that even the big PC makers are turning to small net notebooks powered on Linux. Linux! Imagine that!

    And then there’s rumours that Apple is planning and even smaller, even lighter net notebook for release in the near future …

    I’d say that increasingly the computer world has become about the Internet. It’s like the Gutenberg press. And we’ll be seeing the changes and the opportunities soon enough.

  • jz

    I find it interesting that the person who posted the invite has neither responded to Stormy’s reply ( the gist of which is: but we do have a replacement for Pages Unbound…) nor posted about her site.

    According to the original post, it would “be up in a week or so” and I think it’s been more than that. It would be interesting to know if that’s programmer related (“this turns out to be harder than I thought”) or if she hadn’t known about Web Fiction Guide.

    Either way, I’d be interested to hear about what’s happening.

  • Eli James

    I would too. But it’s still win-win even if she doesn’t create one – while an alternative would be healthy it’ll at least give WFG some time to carve it’s own audience in the wake of PU’s closing.

  • Chris Clarke

    “It would be interesting to know if that’s programmer related (”this turns out to be harder than I thought”) or if she hadn’t known about Web Fiction Guide.” and ““be up in a week or so” and I think it’s been more than that. “

    It was a case of assignments for Uni getting in the way. *doesn’t like assignments*

    I’m the friend Rose mentioned in her post and we finally got the site up a few days ago, Muse’s Success. Right now, it’s running off a modified version of WordPress but eventually I want to replace that with a custom solution as I’m concerned that WordPress won’t scale so easily.

    ~ Chris

  • Eli James

    Ahh! Hello, Chris. Glad to see that the site is up and running.

    PS: did you know that the Chief Programmer and dude behind WFG is also named Chris?