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Why We Do This Stuff -- A Reminder
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The book that launched the video...
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It's a grim time in publishing -- every day I seem to hear about another threat to the very existence of books, magazines, newspapers and writers. And as if the news weren’t awful enough, on Sunday, I read an article in the New York Times business section about how e-readers are leading to the proliferation of book piracy, which, in case you haven’t thought it through, means we writers don't get paid. The statistic that got my palms sweating:

"A report earlier this year by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, based on multiple studies in 16 countries covering three years, estimated that 95 percent of music downloads 'are unauthorized, with no payment to artists and producers.'"

Ninety-five percent? Could that happen to books? The article goes on to talk about RapidShare.com, which has become the go-to spot for ripped-off e-books. When asked about the impact of such theft on writers, the site's spokeswoman, one Katharina Scheid, suggested that we learn from the band Nine Inch Nails, which marketed itself “by giving away most of their content for free.”

OK, I will spare you the stream of invective that came out of my mouth when I read those words. Let me just say that I began having fantasies of planting fake pirated copies of my books on RapidShare which, when downloaded, would launch a video of me taking a sledgehammer to the reader's Kindle. Why is it that only writers and musicians are expected to work for free? Why not, say, spokeswomen for piracy purveyors like RapidShare.com?

And so, like most writers, I’m spending a lot of time worrying about what the future holds. Will books even exist in twenty years? Is writing going to turn into a quaint profession of the past, like farrier or iceman – a colorful job to give to a verbose fictional character, if only fiction still existed?

But then I happened across a video of a second grader in Sandown, New Hampshire who had done a retelling of my book The Sea Serpent and Me, with his own illustrations. And it was so beautiful and touching that I thought: "OK, the pay isn’t great, and it may disappear entirely, but writing for children is still the very best job in the world."

I also found out, belatedly it seems, that The Sea Serpent and Me was nominated for a 2009-2010 Chickadee Award, for which I belatedly thank the kind folks at the Maine Children's Choice Picture Book Project.

Comments
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In Defense of the Kindle

Dashka--

I love books and have beautiful shelves loaded with books. I'm not going to stop reading real books. Nonetheless, while I do not own a Kindle, I have to defend it because you are misinformed on the very notion that the Kindle helps create or encourage piracy. In fact, it's the opposite. Each author should celebrate the device for copyright reasons alone.

First, each Kindle is registered. Kindle versions of books are purchased from Amazon.com, and your e-book arrives on your Kindle via cell phone techology. Thus, you could be under a tree and bring up a menu of available e-books on Amazon, and with a click, your credit card is charged and your book arrives within a minute on your device. Kindle books are far cheaper than print versions because there isn't the cost of printing.

All you can do is read the book on your Kindle. If you haven't tried it, it mimicks the book experience well. The screen is paperback book size, and it's not like a computer monitor. Rather, the screen looks like ink on a page.

You cannot send a copy of a book to other Kindle users. You cannot print it. When you are done reading it, you can't sell the book to a used book store. One book, one machine. That's it. You're leasing more than owning.

I know a number of writers, by the way, who hate that used books are so easy to get now because that's cut into sales. Kindle books cannot be traded.

There was an uproar in the Kindle community recently after Amazon had discovered that someone had uploaded a version of George Orwell's "1984" and was selling it without holding the copyright. Amazon "sucked up" every copy of the book from people's Kindles and refunded people their money. Until then, Kindle users did not know that was possible to do. Amazon felt the copyright had been compromised and so no one should have it.

Alas, a student who had put electronic notes on his "1984" lost all the context for the notes, and so he sued Amazon. Amazon ended up paying the student $150,000. (You can read about it here: http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9138818/Amazon.com_to_pay_150_000...)

This all isn't to say your other points aren't accurate. If someone decides to type up your book or a Harry Potter book and put it on the Internet, it's there to find. Many people now expect to get all their music for free, so they'll likely expect the same for e-books.

I'm a fan of the Kindle, though. I made Kindle versions of my two collections of short fiction, "The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea" and "Months and Seasons," and they're selling extremely well--just behind Jumpa Lahiri's "Unaccustomed Earth" the other day on the short story collections list. I sell far more Kindle versions than the print versions. Kindle users tend to be voracious readers. They're open to trying new authors.

I happened to write about this phenomenon more at length here: http://www.redroom.com/blog/christopher-meeks/kindle-the-emerging-elepha.... Writers should cheer the Kindle.

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Wow! I Just Learned A Lot!

That was an incredibly informative and interesting commment. Thanks so much. I didn't mean to malign the Kindle, just the notion of book piracy. But maybe I should have said "taking a sledgehammer to the reader's e-reader" instead! Somehow it isn't quite as euphonious!

But I am interested to know how you made Kindle versions of your books. Can you enlighten me? I've seen the link on Amazon, but am too technophobic to try to figure it out on my own.

Last thing -- this blog is syndicated via my other blogsite, LiveJournal (it really bugs me that Redroom doesn't syndicate, but that's another story). Anyway, I'd love to post your comment there as well, because I think it's so informative and I'd love it to appear all the places the blog does: JacketFlap, Amazon, etc.

Let me know if you have any objections...You can find it here:

http://dashka-slater.livejournal.com/

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Yes, please post my comment

Dashka, thanks for your kind comments about my reply, and feel free to include what I wrote. The link to my Kindle article gives an overview of how to make your books available on the Kindle. Once your books are available, be sure to announce it to the Kindle community over at the Amazon forum for Kindle and at www.Kindleboards.com.

To see an example of the Amazon forum, to go http://www.amazon.com/tag/kindle/forum/ref=cm_cd_ef_tft_tp?_encoding=UTF....

The above link is where someone wrote about one of my books, and sales took off from there. That kind of thing cannot be planned for, but you can certainly start a thread about what you do.

I happened to write some of the finer details of creating Kindle versions of books yesterday on Kindleboards, which you can read at http://www.kindleboards.com/index.php/topic,14337.0.html

This is something you can easily do.

--Chris

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Fascinating

I just read your blog about uploading your books onto Kindle and I'm fascinated. Thanks so much for sharing the information. Of course, I don't have an MS Word version of my novel, but I'll figure something out!

Dashka

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Dahka, you can upload a PDF

Dahka, you can upload a PDF version of your book, too, but the resulting file may or may not require a lot of fixing. When I tried my PDF file, many of the paragraphs were not indented. I thought it'd take days to fix all that manually (which you can do). Once I realized I could send in a DOC or HTML file, that solved the problem.

By the way, minutes ago at www.amazon.com, CEO Jeff Bezos announced a new worldwide version of the Kindle. Previous versions only worked wirelessly in America. Prices for it dropped a little, too. The Kindle audience is likely to grow in a huge way.

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Two of My Books Are Now Out in Kindle and Other Digital Editions

Thanks Chris for lighting the fire. My novel, THE WISHING BOX, has been released in digital versions (Kindle, Nook, etc.) ten years after the LA Times named one of the best books of 2000. There's recently been a resurgence of interest in it, so I'm hoping readers can find it.

http://www.amazon.com/Wishing-Box-ebook/dp/B003VD178C/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_2

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Congratulations

Dashka, that's great to hear you have two of your books up at Kindle and other places. Since I last wrote here, I was able to get my books up on the Nook via Smashwords.com. You've now joined the new age.

If you haven't announced it on the website Kindleboards, do so. You just become a member for free, and write about each book separately at the Book Bazaar, which is where authors announce books. Some people make a good living at it now.

If you haven't read J.A. Konrath talk about this, try this link:
http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2010/06/konrath-kindle-stats.html

or the one from today: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2010/07/konrath-sells-110-of-patterson.html

I'm not saying you'll get to the same spot quickly--I certainly have not--but the fact you have your books up now digitally is a good thing.

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I'm Studying Your Posts Like Textbooks

Thanks so much for being so generous with information! It's very strange to be launching a book again, ten years after it came out the first time, but I'm delighted to have a way to extend its life a bit.

Dashka