Well, it was an interesting Sunday, in the proverbial sense of the word. When I posted yesterday morning, I had every intention of spending the day writing and watching football with friends. Well, I accomplished the latter. Friends came over to watch — gasp — the Cowboys beat the Giants. That was the high point in the day, sandwiched between news of how my almost 91 year old cousin did in surgery (partial hip replacement) and news that my son had been involved in an auto accident. Both are okay, but it did sort of take the focus off of more mundane things like football and writing.
But it’s back to work today. Let’s start with an article by Julie Bosman that appeared yesterday. This will be the first holiday season when e-readers will be available in such retailers as Walmart, Target and Best Buy. More importantly, they’ll be available at prices likely to entice purchases as gifts. As noted in the article:
“This is the tipping-point season for e-readers, there’s no question,” said Peter Hildick-Smith, president of the Codex Group, a book market research company. “A lot more books are going to be sold in e-book format. It also means that a lot fewer people are going to be shopping in bookstores.”
If things go as forecast, according to the article, there could be as many as 103 e-readers in circulation by the end of the year. To which I have only one thing to say: COOL! Especially the part of the article where the president and CEO of Simon & Schuster, Carolyn Reidy, says she expects e-book sales to “shoot up” on Christmas day.
To revisit a couple of topics from last week, Judith Griggs of Cooks Source Magazine has apologized again for using material from an author without permission. In an interview, Griggs has pledged to be more vigilant about copyright. It may be too little, too late to save the small magazine. The internet uproar over what happened has cost the magazine advertisers, something no publication can afford to lose. However, so much of this could have been avoided had Griggs either not used the article without permission or had simply issued an apology when requested. Instead, her defensive stance may have cost her more than just a few advertisers if, as alleged, she did take articles from such big name sources as Food Network. You can find more about this here. Many thanks to Chris Meadows and TeleRead.com for keeping up with this situation.
Next up is the continuing saga of the book supposedly promoting pedophilia over at Amazon. That slippery slope we discussed last week keeps getting more and more slippery. Amazon has found itself in a no-win situation. If they had left the book up, they would have been crucified for promoting a truly heinous crime. By taking it down, they get crucified in some fora for censorship. Then there are the cries that they didn’t act quickly enough — read that as immediately. And, as predicted, they are now being hit with more demands from other groups to take down yet more books. PETA has sent emails to Jeff Bezos demanding the removal of books about dog fighting, etc. People on the different kindle and amazon boards are posting links to books they want taken down because these books are objectionable. Barnes & Noble is now adding a disclaimer to book published through its PubIt program telling readers to report any objectionable material.
Then there is this article from PC World. Entitled “5 Things to Learn from Amazon’s Latest PR Disaster”, it starts out by talking about how Amazon has backpedaled from an earlier stance about the book. Yes, there is some backpedaling, no doubt about it. The problem arose because Amazon responded too quickly, imo. They issued their no censorship statement before reviewing the title in question. Had they waited — and, yes, it would have been difficult to do so because of all the cries of outrage going viral across the internet — they could have issued a statement saying they were pulling the book due to a violation of their terms of service. Instead, they jumped the gun in a knee-jerk reaction and it’s come back to bite them.
The one thing I will agree with in the article is that this has potentially tarnished the reputation of legitimate e-books. I say potentially — a qualifier the author of the article does not use — because I do think most readers are more forgiving than the author is giving them credit for. Otherwise, the first time someone read something they didn’t like, they’d quit reading — e-book or not. Most people know there are books out there they aren’t going to agree with or enjoy. They simply refuse to buy the book. This is a storm that will blow over.
The real culprit when it comes to tarnishing the reputation of legitimate e-books is poor editing and proofreading. Go to almost any e-book related forum and look at the number of instances where e-books are being criticized because of poor proofreading. It doesn’t matter if the e-book comes from an established publishing house or a new e-press or the author himself. OCR errors, overlooked spelling and punctuation errors, formatting errors are all driving readers up a wall. This is what will hurt us the most in the long run
Overall, however, I think the author of the article has it right. Unfortunately, I don’t have an easy or quick answer to keep this from happening again. If it does, I just hope that the protests go straight to Amazon or whomever and they don’t go viral again. If they do, I’m afraid we will see more and more restrictions being put on the DTP-type platforms, making it all but impossible for small presses and authors to publish through them. And that will be a loss for everyone.
When we first started NRP, the idea was for The Naked Truth to be the voice of our editors and authors. The posts would dovetail to what was going up on our site, what our authors might be doing, etc. But there are times when events simply require comment. This is one of those times.
For those of you who were, like me, hiding under a rock or buried under deadlines yesterday, you might not have heard about the Cooks Source kerfluffle — I can’t say what I really think. We try to keep the blog at a PG rating.
I’m not going to go into all the facts. You can find them at the wronged author’s blog. Another LJ post that deals with what happened is here. John Scalzi sums it all up superbly with this title to his blog entry: The Stupidest Thing an Editor With Three Decades of Experience Has Said About the Web Today”.
There are two things the editor in question did that have set the internet ablaze. The first was to take an author’s work, “edit” it — and I use this term loosely — and then publish it without getting the author’s permission. Going hand in hand with this was the editor’s non-apology apology when the author contacted her. In this so-called apology she basically said the author should thank her for improving the article. That’s bad enough, especially since the only remuneration the author wanted was a $130 donation to a college.
Worse was this assertion by the editor: But honestly Monica, the web is considered “public domain” and you should be happy we just didn’t “lift” your whole article and put someone else’s name on it!
This is where my head exploded. It is also, to judge by the number of blog entries, media articles and op-ed pieces and posts on the magazine’s facebook page, where everyone else’s heads exploded as well. You simply do NOT “lift” work and publish it without permission. Even if permission is granted on the site you are taking the work from, it’s good form to email the author to confirm. It’s also smart to do so because they you have the permission in case there are questions later.
But it goes further than that. “The Internet IS NOT the public domain. There are both uncopyrighted and copyrighted materials available. Assume a work is copyrighted.” Copyright and Fair Use in the Classroom, on the Internet, and the World Wide Web. This is an excellent article about copyright and I highly recommend everyone take a look.
I’m not going to say this is an isolated incident. It’s not. But this is one of the worst I’ve seen in a long time. Not because this on-line magazine basically stole an author’s work. Not at all. It is one of the worst because of how the editor acted. This would have all been dealt with quickly and with little fall-out for the magazine and their advertisers if the editor had simply made a heartfelt apology and quickly donated the requested $130 to the college the author recommended. Instead, this one editor has put a bad taste in the mouths of so many people and her actions have splashed back onto the magazine’s advertisers who had nothing to do with what happened.
There are lessons to be learned from this debacle. The first, if you are posting someone else’s work, get their permission first. Be sure to credit them, something Cooks did. Don’t post without the author’s permission, unless you have contract in hand that gives you permission to post the article. Most of all, as an editor, don’t be a butthead!
But there are lessons for the author as well. The first is to set Google Alerts to your name/pen name and article title. The second is not to panic. Just because this particular editor acted this way, it doesn’t mean there is an epidemic of it. Be vigilant and keep writing. Most of all, don’t let this one incident prevent you from posting. Don’t let the bad guys win.