Here’s Ursula K. LeGuin’s letter of resignation from the Authors Guild as a result of their involvement with that Google Settlement.
I can see her point. Really, I can. I understand her reasoning. I’m sad that so many writers are upset, and I realize that they ARE losing income. I have no idea what the benefits of being in this Guild might be, anyway, so I see this as more of a symbolic act.
I think I can also understand the Guild’s reasoning. After all, they aren’t going to accomplish what the authors who don’t want their work put out there for free AT ALL want . . . Google Books isn’t going away, and what is posted for free cannot be un-posted (or at least it WON’T be un-posted.) I can see that they want to come up with SOME sort of bone to throw to people whose work now may not sell as many copies as it might have before.
On the other paw, I am not sure that everyone who runs across a book on Google Books, or who looks up a book and peruses some of the pages, or does research and refers to a book on that site would have bought a copy. Would they have bought a new copy? A used copy at a used bookstore? Would they have gone to a library (assuming you could FIND a library that hasn’t thrown away all the books that weren’t checked out last year in order to make room for all those CDs and DVDs and books on “tape” or whatever medium is the new fashion)? Would they have just not read it at all? It isn’t easy to know. In fact, we can never know. If you take polls, people lie. God only knows the truth of these things.
So. I’m darn lucky in that I have a sugar daddy (husband) who has a great talent at making a living working for The Man, and he’s doing some projects that are keeping him employed, and he enjoys the work. If I didn’t have someone who could make the majority of the money that this household needs/relies on, I would be up that stinky creek without a paddle, as (for various reasons) I am absolutely ROTTEN at working for The Man at all, let alone in the field I have the credentials for (software development/test/QC or metrics). The occasional buck that I might make doesn’t really contribute much.
How does that relate to the debate?
Well . . . I would LOVE to have my books up on Google Books. I would LOVE to see people reading them. I would FAINT if I actually got a few reviews. Sure, people are going to differ. Lots of people are going to not like them. But lots of people don’t like published novels and acclaimed novels and “Twilight” novels, too. It’s not the end of the world. If I could reach a wide audience that way, and the work had my name on it, and everyone knew that I wrote it . . . I’d be happy. I have no illusions about making any money writing novels, and I never have had. That isn’t the reason I started doing it. I’d prefer to be one of those people who is simply happy to have written a book and happy that it’s finished, but I’m not. It’s some kind of ego/worthiness thing, or something. I could find out which if only our insurance covered psychiatry, I’m sure–but it doesn’t, and I suspect that if insurance changes in the future, it STILL won’t cover anything except giving you pills; the “talking cure” is out of style because it’s too expensive and often doesn’t do the trick.
BUT ANYWAY. They don’t WANT my books, but I would be flattered if they did. So I’m torn as far as it goes. I’m jealous of the people whose books are up there with full acknowledgement of their authorship. They’ve been validated. They’re “real” writers in the world’s estimation.
I know they don’t see it that way. I also know they wish they could educate the public about why it hurts them for their newly released books to be immediately available in pirated form or on Google Books. But . . . you can’t do it.
You can’t make people understand why it’s a problem for authors. They only see the book as a commodity for them to consume. It’s the same with MP3s of songs, scan-ins of artworks, and so forth. The typical consumer does NOT see a problem with what WE see as “theft of intellectual property.” They also don’t want you to point it out, as they feel that artists and musicians and writers are “rich anyway.” So don’t even bother to try to tell someone it’s wrong to go get the bittorrent of a film as soon as it’s out there and burn it to DVD. You won’t ever convince them it’s immoral or unethical, IMHO. As Grandpa used to say, “Sinners don’t want to hear that they’re sinnin’, son. They know they’re sinnin’. They’re enjoying it too much to stop!”
It’s funny . . . on the Amazon forums, there’s a “Welcome to the Kindle” forum for new Kindle owners. You wouldn’t believe the kinds of posts I see. One guy said, “I bought novel X for my Kindle and now that I’ve read it, I want to sell it back or trade it in. I heard that when you are finished with a book, you can trade it in for credit. Is this true?” Instead of howls of laughter, the replies were all very serious. “Oh, that is a great idea! Let’s get Amazon to do it!” *facepalm* Hey, guys, now you see one advantage of owning the physical book. When I finish it, I can give it to the library (ha–for their next library sale) or take it over to the hospital and put it on the rolling bookcase they keep for patients who want something to read. You do not have that same privilege. You bought a digital copy. You traded the “bulky old dead tree version” for the convenience. I don’t think Amazon is going to go for a trade-in plan!
But I also see tons of posts there from people like me who have put their books on the Kindle themselves. Some of these authors are putting out-of-print novels up. Others are putting up any old book they write, many of which are totally unpolished. Both types of books are getting rave reviews, believe it or not. It’s sort of exciting to see the new “market” opening up. Most of the books are priced from .99 to 1.99, so these writers don’t expect to see lots of cash coming in. They must be freaks like me.
If Google calls (or e-mails), I’ll let you know. . . .