Monday, May 9, 2011
Gather closer children, and I'll tell you a story.
Once upon a time there was a kingdom called Publishing which was ruled by Giants. These Giants were cruel, hard, and greedy, and wielded enormous power, dictating every facet of the lives of those who lived in or visited their kingdoms. The subjects had no choice but to live under the thumb of the Giants, eating and drinking only what the Giants deemed appropriate for the masses.
One day, in an obscure little hamlet called Internet, far from the kingdom of Publishing, a baby was born. Its parents named him "E-publishing," or "E-pub" for short. The Giants hardly deigned to notice Epub, dismissing the child as inconsequential and weak, and of no threat to them. They went about their Giant-business as they had every day for time out of mind, ruthlessly dictating the lives of their subjects without qualm.
Nestled, protected, and nurtured in his little hamlet of Internet, E-pub grew quickly. He began to make his presence known outside the boundaries of Internet, reaching out to those who lived under the Giants' rule. People were drawn to E-pub because of his open-mindedness and approachability, and were not intimidated by E-pub. He didn't seek to limit the people's choices, but rather offered an endless variety of material for them to choose from, day or night, and for far less than the Giants charged for their services.
The Giants laughed at E-pub, and occasionally threw a caustic barb in his direction, but generally ignored him, seeing him as no threat to their power.
But one day a curious thing happened. The Giants were in their treasure room counting their coin when they realized the tithing of their subjects had dwindled. While they had been busy ignoring E-pub and denouncing him as an insignificant peon who would quickly fade away, E-pub had built a kingdom for himself right under their Giant noses that included many of the Giants' subjects. Some of the Giants' tax collectors even claimed that E-pub had collected more from the subjects than the Giants had! Suddenly, some of the Giants' largest supporters, huge marketplaces that had supplied the masses with the Giants' goods for so long, were disappearing.
The Giants were outraged and secluded themselves inside their war rooms to plot a new strategy. As incredible as it sounded, this wretched little upstart, E-pub, was threatening their rule! They could not allow this to continue. They formulated a plan, a wicked one that they believed would ultimately allow them to consume E-pub completely and return the world to the way things were before.
On tiptoes, the Giants crept into Internet, the birthplace of E-pub, and began breeding their own lineage of electronic children. They hoped their fame and familiarity would bring the people of the kingdom back under their rule. They began to quietly infiltrate some of E-pub's largest supporters, sometimes consuming them whole.
Sure enough, the people of the kingdom happily bought the Giants' wares alongside those of E-pub. For a while, everyone seemed happy and looked forward to a New Age.
But the Giants weren't happy. They didn't want to share their kingdom. They wanted things to go back to the way they were before E-pub's birth when they ruled the world.
They realized the only way to do this was the old-fashioned way - by stringing up a noose and sticking the heads of the subjects firmly inside it. So, they took their electronic children and began taxing the most popular of them at a higher rate than their children of old. No longer was it less expensive to take in one of the Giants' electronic children. Instead, it cost more.
They tightened the noose.
We've reached the end of this tale, although not the end of the story. The Giants of Publishing are seeking a strangle hold on us, their subjects. Will we allow them to destroy all that E-pub has created, or worse, consume E-pub entirely? Will we allow the Giants to stomp every iota of freedom and choice in Internet out, transforming it into a copy of their old kingdom?
I wrote this little fairy tale because of an experience I had today that outraged me.
Besides being an author, I'm also an avaricious reader. Having a road trip coming up in the next couple of days (I'm driving to Atlanta to participate in OutlantaCon/Gaylaxicon), I thought it would be nice to have some new reading material on hand.
I went to Barnes and Noble.com to score a few books by my favorite authors for my Nook. Need I say how shocked and disgusted I was to find that the price for the Nookbooks (Ebooks) were the same as, or HIGHER than the cost of the print books?
I don't understand it. E-books cost FAR less than print books to publish. There's no paper, for one, no printing or shipping costs. Make one copy, and with the press of a few buttons, an infinite number of copies are made.
There's only one reason for it. GREED. Brick and mortar publishers seem to think that by charging more or the same for Ebooks, people will opt to go back to buying print books. And for those Ebooks they sell, well...they've just made a fortune on a product that costs nearly nothing to produce.
The noose is tightening, folks, but I refuse to stick my head in it. As much as I, as an author, support my literary brethren, I will NOT buy an ebook that costs more than a print book, nor will I be forced to fork over my hard-earned cash for a print copy if I don't want one. I'd rather wait to buy a used copy, or get it from my local library.