To download or not to download

Recently my book – which has been out in paperback for a few weeks now, was turned into a download. You can now get it on Kindle here.

As well as the old-fashioned dead tree way here.

I’m not sure how I feel about it – pleased still of course, that the book is out at all, that I have a publisher in Skylight Press out there doing their best for it and caring about it as much as I do. But in terms of the fancy new Kindle version – how do I feel about that? It’s the future I know, no doubt at all about that. It would take someone who was a bit of a Luddite these days to be a download denier – and that’s certainly not me.

So I’m glad to have the book out in this format – and I certainly see the advantages of it. The portability of the devices, the almost instant access to a whole library of books.

I also think that anything which not only preserves, but reinvigorates reading and the novel has to be a good thing. It has to be a living, breathing art form, the moment it lapses into becoming a museum piece then it’s doomed.

Finally, I like the way that downloads, and that means Kindle right at the moment, have already led to a publishing revolution allowing authors who do not have a publisher to take their destiny in their own hands and do it themselves. This reminds me of the early days of punk rock – or of indie bands. The self-sufficiency they had, the DIY ethic, led to some brilliant music and a voice for people who would not otherwise have been heard.

The same thing is happening in fiction now I think – different voices, ones which might not have made it into print, have managed to side-step the publishing system and find a platform for their work.

So two cheers for downloads then. But let’s not (ahem) write-off books.

Let me say firstly, that the dream for me, the one I’d had since childhood, was to have a book published – one I could hold in my hand, put on my bookshelf – one that had the feel and smell and yes, romance, of a book. I didn’t dream of a download.

But that might be more to do with the fact I have grown up with books. A new generation may well be following hard on my heals who dream of switching on their Kindle, swiping their fingers across the screen and having their name pop up on the illuminated display.

Times change after all. But my key worry isn’t about the downloads themselves – more about what they can lead to. Once things are available on digital format it seems to me that their value starts to plummet.

Look at music – digital piracy has decimated that industry. Look at movies, going the same way. There used to be a newspaper industry – I used to work in it. Now because so much news is available free on the internet the market has set the value of news at near zero.

I don’t want the same fate to befall printed fiction.

Already I am hearing horror stories from fellow authors about their downloads being pirated and stolen. Most authors are paid little for their work even when the system is working – if it breaks down they are in real trouble.

So I’m delighted to have my book out on Kindle – thrilled by it – and I really value those readers who choose to buy Song of the Sea God in that way.

But my hope is that the download revolution doesn’t issue in an era when books are thought of as ‘freeware’ available to all without any payment to those who have worked hard to produce them.

6 thoughts on “To download or not to download”

  1. I have the same fear. I’ve heard those stories too and I hope I don’t run into that problem. I’ve been told there are sites where you can go to help with those kinds of issues. I’m not really sure what anyone can do. I do plan to self-pub so I will have my book in print too. Good luck and I hope your sales are great! Let me know when I can either get it on Nook or by the printed version.

    1. Hi Lisa – my book is already out as a printed version – just click on the link at the top of the post – or on the book cover to the right of the post!
      I think the only download version the publisher is doing is Kindle – but these are downloadable to a number of different devices I think, not just Kindle machines – I’m no expert though so I don’t know if it would work on Nook – you might be better off with the book!
      I don’t worry about book piracy for my own sake – I’m too small a fish for it to worry me in terms of my book – my concern is more for writers overall. I’m sure you and I will be ok !

  2. I have both books and an ebook, as you know, and I’d still prefer to be published in book form. But I recognise that for many writers in these hard and selective times, that isn’t going to happen, so ebooks give you a chance to get your work out there. Dunno what to do about the piracy thing. You can stick ‘copyright’ on your work (I did) but it’s too easy to download. Another thing I won’;;t do ( and I’ve been castigated roundly for it) is enter the Kindle free promos. As you say, we work for practically nothing, and we are worth FAR more than we ever receive. I really hope your novel takes off, and is read and enjoyed by loads of people. That’s the reason we do it, I guess!

    1. Yes – I don’t like the free giveaways really either – I accept they are a useful marketing tool but I resist anything which basically says ‘my work is of no value’ because that’s not true. I don’t think piracy is a problem for me personally – more for the industry as a whole – only time will tell how big of one it turns out to be.

  3. I have optimistic feelings about Kindle and other platforms. There is a very real issue of piracy. But then those who download anything for free, even if they’re fans of your work never truly value it, and you to invest in writing. You have to do the work of imagining what’s going on.

    You mention how digital platforms have harmed recorded music, but there’ve been some interesting developments. Small, niche acts, bands such as Shellac who are very popular but only print small physical runs of their music (partly out of cost), have found that music piracy has led them to become very popular in countries where they’ve never released any records or CDs, and this has led them to tour there – with great success.

    I’m not sure what the equivalent situation with publishing will be, but there will be one. It just hasn’t happened yet, and unfortunately it’s impossible to predict.

    It could be the Radiohead model of pay-what-you-like for a digital copy and then a bit more for the physical edition. Or it could be that you pay what you read – say, 20p to unlock the next chapter.

    I have only released one thing on eBook and that’s Looker, which was published as part of the ongoing Bad Dollar anthology. Each story has the same premise: a dollar is spent and something bad happens. What you do with that idea is up to you. Here’s a link: http://www.baddollar.com/ebooks/look-er/

    But what I found great about Bad Dollar is that there is a process. You submit your story and if it’s good enough you go through an editorial process before it’s published.

    Writers need an editorial process. They need feedback and guidance. There’s a reason it’s there. I’m not worried about eBooks. It’s self-publishing that I fear. The Kindle and eBook charts are full of bad self-published works.

    1. I agree! Not only Kindle, but the whole modern world of social media has been a huge benefit to me. I have a small first novel published by a small publisher – yet I am selling copies and downloads in small numbers all across the world thanks to the social media revolution. I have found an audience which I would never have found before. So all that is fantastic – but the piracy is still an issue – not for me so much as for the system as a whole.

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