Pixel Scroll 10/17/17 If I Have Scrolled Further Than Others, It Is Because I Stood On The Pixels Of Filers

(1) NOW YOU KNOW. Ron Howard says the movie will be called Solo: A Star Wars Story.

(2) ATOMIC AGE LORE. Tony Rothman kicks off his American Scientist article “The Forgotten Mystery of Inertia” with – of all things – a Worldcon anecdote.

In days of yore, at a World Science Fiction Convention in Boston, a Harvard graduate student polished his reputation as a brilliant mad scientist by roaming the convention halls, brandishing what at first glance appeared to be a rather peculiar steel bowling ball. Portholes perforated its surface, providing a glimpse of electronic hardware inside; tangled wires sprouted from the same holes, and a gear train surrounded the mysterious object’s equator.

“What’s that?” I asked him.

“It’s the gyro platform for an intercontinental ballistic missile,” he replied. “If you put it on a Titan rocket, it will fly to Kiev.”

“How do you know?”

“It’s an inertial guidance system, stupid. It knows where Kiev is.”

“I know how inertial guidance systems work, but how do you know it knows where Kiev is?”

“Oh, that. It was stamped on the box.”

This sorcerer’s apprentice had discovered that for $900 you could buy a surplus intercontinental ballistic missile, 10 years before the electronics were declassified. His Titan was delivered on two railway cars, “Kiev Titan Missile” stamped on the crates. He junked the body, donated the engines to an art museum, and saved the electronics for his research. A tall tale? Sounds like one, but the gyro platform was there for all to see.

That is the question. At what, exactly, is the gyroscope pointed? According to the law of inertia, objects tend to continue doing what they’ve been doing: If at rest, they remain at rest; if moving, they continue moving at the same speed in the same direction. The gyroscope also bends to inertia’s will, but in confounding ways. Touch it, and the gyro opposes you by veering in unexpected directions. If it is spinning extremely rapidly, the gyroscope remains rigidly locked in the direction it has been set, its sights fixed on…Kiev—hence the term inertial guidance systems. If a rocket veers off the gyro’s fixed course, a sensor detects the error, and a servomechanism realigns the missile with the gyroscope axis.

Was that Russell Seitz? When I first got into fandom that was the story going around about him, of which the following is one version:

In the late 70’s, when most of our nuclear arsenal was converted from liquid to solid fuel, the U.S. Government auctioned off a number of obsolete missile silos and their contents. Mostly the silos got bought by local farmers who converted them for grain storage. I only know what happened to one of the missiles. It was offered at sealed bid auction and a friend of mine, Russell Seitz, bought it. When you bid on something like this, you have to send in a check for 10% of your bid as a deposit. He looked at his bank account, and figured he could spare about $300 that month, so that’s what he sent. When he discovered that he’d won the bid, he had to scrounge up the rest. Now the buyer must pick up the goods himself, but he can request that his purchase be delivered, at government expense, to the nearest military base. Being an undergraduate at M.I.T. at the time, he had the missile shipped to Hanscom Airforce Base, about 12 miles away. He then arranged for a truck, and donated the missile to a local modern art museum (I forget which one). Tax laws were a little different in those days, and if you donated something to an art museum, you could deduct not the just the purchase price, but the original value of the object, which was considerable. Income averaging allowed him to spread the “loss” out over a number of years so that he didn’t have to pay taxes for a long time! He was legendary at M.I.T. for quite a while, and acquired the nickname “Missile” Seitz.

(3) ED KRAMER BACK IN THE NEWS. Ed Kramer, Dragon Con founder and convicted sex offender, has sued the producers of The Disappearance of Natalee Holloway, claiming they owe him for his work in creating and developing the program. The Huffington Post has the story: “Sex Offender Claims Responsibility For Natalee Holloway TV Series”.

Just when it seemed the Natalee Holloway case couldn’t get more peculiar, HuffPost has uncovered another twist in the teenager’s 2005 disappearance: A registered sex offender is claiming responsibility for a recent television series about the mystery.

Edward Kramer is suing producers of “The Disappearance of Natalee Holloway,” a TV series that began in August on the Oxygen Network, alleging he is “co-owner, developer and writer,” according to his lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in California. Kramer wants unspecified “just compensation” for his work, plus punitive damages.

Kramer’s personal website claims:

Edward E. Kramer is the creator and developer of the six-part series, The Disappearance of Natalee Holloway for Brian Graden Media (BGM) and NBC Universal’s newly re-branded Oxygen Crime Network. This landmark series, featuring Dave Holloway and Private Investigators T. J. Ward, Kathy Wainscott, Trace Sargent and Eric Bryant, Detective Frank Karic and Forensic Scientist Jason Kolowski, which finally puts to rest the 2005 murder of Natalee Holloway.

The defendants in the lawsuit, Brian Graden Media and Lipstick Inc., filed an answer to the suit, denying they owe anything to Kramer.

He wasn’t “named as a writer, screenwriter, or co-creator,” they said, and was working as an “employee or agent of T.J. Ward,” a private investigator who appeared on the series with Holloway’s father, Dave Holloway.

Read a copy of the original lawsuit filing and the defendants’ answer here.

(4) MARVEL EXEC’S COMICS COLLECTION LOOTED. Marvel’s Joe Quesada is looking for help to recover or reacquire comics and other art stolen from his collection. He gives the background in a long public post on Facebook, leading up to recent discoveries of his artwork for sale, and the arrest of the culprit.

In early June I was contacted by a longtime friend, he was looking at some comic art auctions and was curious as to why I was auctioning a piece that he knew was part of my personal collection and something I would never, ever sell. He sent me a link where I discovered 24 pieces in total from my private collection up for auction including pieces I did long before I was a working professional. While at the moment I’m not at liberty to give the details, investigating this further it turns out that the artwork that was up for auction was all originally purchased from a Mr. Francesco Bove.

Further investigation uncovered that, since the time he was thrown out of my house, at least 185 more pieces of my stolen art were sold at auction and all of it originally purchased directly from Mr. Bove. That’s 185 pieces, sold and gone! How much more was sold privately is unknown at the moment but I’m not feeling optimistic.

So why is this news breaking now? As the case was being investigated the Detective in charge discovered Mr. Bove had left the country and had gone to Italy. Upon his return he was arrested which brings us to right now. From what I know so far it’s believed that Mr. Bove has sold portions of my art to comic shops, dealers and collectors in Manhattan, Brooklyn, The Bronx, as well as parts of Long Island and New Jersey. It could be wider spread than that but I’m not at liberty to say.

And here’s the thing that keeps me up at night. These were pieces that I was never intending to sell, art that had deep personal meaning to every member of my family. There was an enormous collection of Archie art from various artists like Stan Goldberg, Harry Lucey, Sam Schwartz but the majority of it by Dan DeCarlo. There were also Laugh Comics pages by Bill Woggon, The Adventures Of Pipsqueak by Walt Lardner as well as Pat The Brat and Shrimpy by Joe Harold and a huge assortment of other artists from the 50s and 60s to today. I lost pages of my own professional art as well as art I purchased from dear and talented friends. But what stings the most is that Mr. Bove took artwork that I had discovered many years ago stored in my father’s home after he had passed away. Drawings and paintings I did in elementary school, high school and college. Practice sample pages I had done before ever seriously thinking I could be in comics. This was art I was leaving behind for my daughter just as my father had left it for me. It kills me to think that I’ll never get this stuff back now that it’s been scattered to the four winds perhaps bought and sold more times than I care to imagine… or possibly even destroyed. So yes, heartbreak after heartbreak. Not only was the thief someone who I trusted, allowed into my home and helped during rough times, but the items he stole in order to keep himself afloat once he realized he irreversibly burned his bridge with me were the ones most irreplaceable and of personal importance.

Now here’s the part where I could use your help.

While I’m hopeful that now in custody Mr. Bove may lead the Detectives to the people and locations where he sold the art, perhaps some of you reading this might be able to point the Sparta New Jersey Police Department in the right direction. If you’ve purchased any art from Mr. Francesco Bove and have it in your possession or know someone who does please contact

Det. Jeffrey McCarrick at (973) 726-4072

Or the Sparta New Jersey Police Department spartanj.org or on their FB page https://www.facebook.com/sparta.police/

You can also reach out to me here on FB as well. Please know that I understand completely that this was sold under false pretenses and I fault no one for not knowing that. All I want is to retrieve as much of the art as I possibly can especially the attached Dan DeCarlo cover for Archie #322 which means the world to me and my family. Unfortunately it has been sold at least twice over that I’m aware of but if you know where I can find it I will gladly purchase it back.

(5) BOOTS ON THE GROUND. The Planetary Society reports on the first meeting of the newly reconstituted National Space Council in “We choose to go to the Moon and do the other things”.

Returning to the Moon

The biggest news to come out of today’s meeting was [Vice President] Pence’s authoritative declaration that Americans will return to the lunar surface.

“We will return American astronauts to the Moon, not only to leave behind footprints and flags, but to build the foundation we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond,” Pence said.

This wasn’t unexpected, considering prior statements by Pence, other administration officials, and the backgrounds of space council executive secretary Scott Pace, and NASA administrator nominee Jim Bridenstine.

Very few details were given on how a return to the lunar surface would work, or when it would occur. Pence did not say whether the Americans on the surface would be government or commercially-employed astronauts. And the agency’s exploration goals already include a return to lunar space via the Deep Space Gateway, a small space station in lunar orbit, which would provide a test-bed for closed-loop life support, deep space maneuvering, and other technologies necessary for travel to Mars.

In a statement, NASA acting administrator Robert Lightfoot said the agency has “highlighted a number of initiatives underway in this important area (cislunar space), including a study of an orbital gateway or outpost that could support a sustained cadence of robotic and human missions.” That implies the Deep Space Gateway is still on the table, and could theoretically fit within the broad plans outlined by Pence.

The fate of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion crew capsule have been a perennial point of discussion among space advocates, particularly during the transition to this new, business-friendly administration. Though it wasn’t stated explicitly, today’s discussions seemed to assume the continuation of SLS and Orion, at least for now. The programs have always had strong congressional support, and were intended to be destination-agnostic, both by design and congressional directive. NASA can thus shift its focus without a drastic restructuring of its major hardware programs.

(6) TAKE A SHOWER. Space.com tells you — “Orionid Meteor Shower 2017: When, Where & How to See It”.

One of the year’s best sky shows will peak between Oct. 20 and 22, when the Orionid meteor shower reaches its best viewing. The meteors that streak across the sky are some of the fastest and brightest among meteor showers, because the Earth is hitting a stream of particles almost head on.

The particles come from Comet 1P/Halley, better known as Halley’s Comet. This famous comet swings by Earth every 75 to 76 years, and as the icy comet makes its way around the sun, it leaves behind a trail of comet crumbs. At certain times of the year, Earth’s orbit around the sun crosses paths with the debris.

(7) NOTABLE SIGNATURES. Michael Burstein posted copies of some historic letters his grandfather received from Einstein, Teller and Isaac Asimov.

Among other things, my grandfather Rabbi Abraham Burstein was secretary of the Jewish Academy of Arts and Sciences. One of his tasks was reaching out to various luminaries to see if they would be interested in joining the academy. Sometimes he reached out to people whom he knew were Jewish but who might not be very public about it; joining the academy was a way to express solidarity without becoming too public. From what I understand, the academy had annual meetings with speakers.

I do not know what was in the letters my grandfather sent out to these three recipients, but we can see what they said back.

The earliest letter is from Albert Einstein, dated June 7, 1936. The next letter is from Edward Teller, dated December 21, 1962. The last letter is from Isaac Asimov, dated October 21, 1965.

(8) HONOR AN AUSTRALIAN SFF CONTRIBUTOR. The A. Bertram Chandler Award is calling for nominations.

So why is a person awarded this honour?  It’s because the recipient has demonstrated over many years untiring commitment and selfless work within Australian fandom or the Aussie SF scene in general.  Work such as convention running, local club activities, publishing, writing of merit in the genre whether that be blogs, fanzines, short stories or novels, artistic endeavours such painting, graphics or other such forms.  The criteria is not limited to any one activity; but mostly it is for activities that are visible and evident to the Aussie SF community.

So, do you know someone who has made a significant contribution to Australian science fiction and/ or Australian fandom, not just over the last year, but year in, year out? Feel that they should be honoured / recognised for this work? Then why not nominate them for the A Bertram Chandler Award. It is really easy to do: just write to the ASFF and outline why you think that the person is deserving of the award.  No forms to fill out, no entrance fee, nothing but a simple few paragraphs outlining the person’s achievements.

For more information about the A Bertram Chandler Award and the Australian Science Fiction Foundation visit our website ( www.asff.org.au )

To nominate a worthy person, send to awards@asff.org.au

(9) EBOOK TIDE RECEDING? A Wall Street Journal blogger relates what publishers had to say at the Frankfurt Book Fair in “Book Publishers Go Back to Basics”.

Book publishers are giving an advance review of the industry’s future, and it looks a lot like the past. After a decade of technological upheaval and lackluster growth, executives at the top four U.S. consumer book publishers say they are done relying on newfangled formats to boost growth.

It has been nearly 10 years since Amazon.com Inc. introduced its Kindle e-book reader amid the financial crisis, destabilizing publishers and challenging their well-honed business models.

Now, e-book sales are on the decline, making up a fraction of publishers’ revenue, and traditional book sales are rising. The consumer books industry is enjoying steady growth in the U.S., with total revenue increasing about 5% from 2013 to 2016, according to the Association of American Publishers.

Executives gathered in Frankfurt for the industry’s biggest trade fair said they are returning to fundamentals: buying and printing books that readers want to buy—and they are streamlining their businesses to get them out faster than ever before.

It is about “knowing what [readers] want,” said Markus Dohle, chief executive of Bertelsmann SE and Pearson PSO -1.91% PLC’s joint venture Penguin Random House, “to drive demand at scale.”

The shift is a surprise reversal for an industry that experts just a decade ago predicted was facing radical change, if not a slow death, because of digitization and changing reading habits. Instead, e-book sales in the U.S. were down about 17% last year, according to the AAP industry group, while printed book revenue rose 4.5%.

…Mr. Murray blamed flagging e-book sales on “screen fatigue,” and said HarperCollins was upping investment in printed books, “the value anchor” for the entire business. Printed books are “more beautiful now,” he said. “You’ll see endpapers [and] a lot more design sensibility going into the print editions because we recognized that they can’t be throwaway.”

(10) IT’S THE PRICE. Amanda S. Green’s opinion about the above news is that trad publishers constantly talk around the real obstacle to e-book sales, which she identifies in “The delusions continue” at Mad Genius Club.

…Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy claims that nothing “went wrong” with e-books. It seems she believes people have gotten tired of reading on their screens. Again, a complete disconnect from reality. People don’t want to pay as much — or more — for an e-book as they will for a print copy. But the laugh out loud moment comes further down in the article when Reidy says she firmly believes “a new version of the book based on digital delivery will come eventually, though she does not know what it might look like.”

Blink.

Blink. Blink.

Hmm, wouldn’t that be an e-book? The bells and whistles might be a bit different, but it if walks like a duck and quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, isn’t it a duck?

And what about her argument that e-book sales have leveled off because we are tired of reading on our screens?

It constantly amazes me the way these folks continue to tie themselves into knots trying to explain how e-books are bad, or are a passing fad or a way for writers not good enough for traditional publishing to get their works into the hands of readers. All I know is that the real numbers, the numbers that look at more than the Big 5 titles, tell a different tale. As a reader, I know I find myself picking up more and more books from indie authors because they are writing stories I want to read and they are doing it at prices that allow me to read two or three or more books for the price of a single Big 5 title. When is the point going to come where an accountant who isn’t afraid of rocking the boat says they can actually sell more — and make more money — if they lower their prices to something reasonable?

(11) SPLATTERPUNK AWARD SEEKS NOMINATIONS. As announced recently on Episode 136 of The Horror Show with Brian Keene, the SplatterPunk awards are now taking nominations for works of horror.  The categories are:

  • BEST NOVEL (for works of more than 50,000 words)
  • BEST NOVELLA (for works from 15,000 to 50,000 words)
  • BEST SHORT STORY (for works from 500 to 14,000 words)
  • BEST COLLECTION (for single-author works over 50,000 words)
  • BEST ANTHOLOGY (for multiple-author collections over 50,000 words)

Anyone registered to attend next year’s KillerCon is eligible to nominate.  Early registration is $89.99 until the end of 2017.  Registration is capped at 250 attendees.

Dann sent the link along with an observation, “The nomination form is a little unusual in that there is only one space provided for a nomination.  The attendee is supposed to indicate the appropriate category in one box and the work being nominated in a second box.  It isn’t clear how an attendee is supposed to nominate works in more than one category.”

Guests of honor at next year’s Killer Con include Brian Keene, Edward Lee, and Lucy Taylor.  Special Guests include author Matt Shaw and freelance editor Monica J. O’Rourke.

The 2018 Splatterpunk Awards jurors are David J. Schow, Gerard Houarner, Monica J. O’Rourke, Mike Lombardo, and Tod Clark.

The Founders of the SplatterPunk Awards, Wrath James White and Brian Keene, will select the Lifetime Achievement Award winner.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 17, 1937: Huey, Dewey, and Louie (Donald Duck’s nephews) first appeared in a comic strip.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born October 17, 1914 – Jerry Siegel, co-creator of Superman.
  • Born October 17 – Michael J. Walsh, publisher, Old Earth Books, and former Worldcon chair (1983)

(14) THE NEIGHBORS’ HALLOWEEN DISPLAY. That would be a two-story tall Star Wars Imperial Walker —  “‘The Force’ is strong in Parma as residents unveil towering Star Wars’ robot”.

Everyone wants to see Nick Meyer’s latest Halloween decoration.

“That is an imperial armored transporter from (‘Star Wars: Episode V – The) Empire Strikes Back,’” said Meyer.

Star Wars’ fans would know the official name for the towering rover: an AT-AT (All Terrain Armored Transport).

Seven years ago, Meyer and his family started the tradition of building a Halloween display in the front yard.

“I love it, I encourage it,” said Nick’s wife Becky Meyer.

It gets bigger every year.

“I liked the clowns we did one year. Last year we did ‘Friday the 13th’ cabin, that was one of my favorites,” Becky said. “Last year was pretty awesome, and he topped it,” said next door neighbor, Amber Johnson.

One would think some neighbors might not want to stare at a two-story Star Wars robot for a few weeks, you’d be wrong.

“No, this is our fourth year living next door to them, and we love it,” Johnson said.

(15) IN MEMORY YET GRAY. Lawrence Schoen asks the inevitable question of Vivian Shaw, author of Strange Practice, in “Eating Authors: Vivian Shaw”.

LMS: Welcome, Vivian. What’s your most memorable meal?

VS: If you’d asked me this two years ago, I would have had no difficulty whatsoever in coming up with the best meal I’d ever eaten. That was in 2004, in Chicago, the same day I met Scott McNeil and George Romero: I was at a Transformers convention and decided to take myself to an actual steakhouse for an actual steak, and I can still so clearly remember the gorgeous rich mineral taste of that first-ever filet mignon, the way it almost dissolved in my mouth. The vivid greenness of the two asparagus spears on the plate, the peppery kick of the Shiraz that accompanied it — even thirteen years later it’s incredibly easy to recall.

(The most memorable, however, was the time on British Airways in the 1990s where for reasons known only to themselves somebody had decided to add bits of squid to the fruit salad. Memorable doesn’t equal pleasant.)

(16) LECKIE’S PROVENANCE Camestros Felapton reviews the new novel Provenance by Ann Leckie.

The people of Hwae (or at least the high-ranking ones) obsess over social status in a way that the Radch obsesses over rank (and tea). Central to this cult-like obsession is the veneration of ‘vestiges’ – artifacts that demonstrate the age of a family and possible connections to historical events. Vestiges can be anything from physical objects to letters and postcards or ticket stubs.

When we first meet Ingray she is off planet, embroiled in a scheme that is within her cognitive capacity to execute but for which she is not temperamentally prepared. As events unfold, a prison break, stolen spaceships, a murder of foreign dignitary and an invasion plot unfold around Ingray in a story that has elements of a mad-cap caper along side space-opera and Leckie’s trademark examination of the potential variety of human culture.

Above all Ingray is an honest person caught in a story in which most people she meets (both the good and the bad) are liars. This is such a clever trick by Leckie, as she manages to encapsulate Ingray very quickly as a character very early in the book, while giving her a backstory that gives her reasons to attempt a devious scheme (returning a notorious exiled criminal/disgraced vestige keeper to Hwae to embarrass her parent’s political rival). Ingray’s basic niceness wins her some useful allies and her naturally bravery pushes her further into the events.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Andrew Finch tells the inspiration for his short film Others Will Follow.

But Why?

Thanks for watching, Others Will Follow was inspired by this speech written for President Nixon to deliver in the event that the Apollo 11 astronauts were stranded on the moon. Fortunately they never used it, so I figured I would. NASA has parked its space ships in museums in the decades since the contingency speech was written. Most humans alive today didn’t exist the last time humanity left low earth orbit. I wanted to make something that would outline the importance of human space flight by imagining a brute-force mission to Mars in the early 2000s that, despite disastrous circumstances still manages to pass the torch of inspiration. I spent 4.5 years making this short and attempted to do every aspect of its creation myself, from pyrotechnics to music composition. Many of the disciplines were completely new to me like designing and building the space ship and constructing the space suit, others like VFX and cinematography I had a background in.

The lone survivor of the first mission to Mars uses his last moments to pass the torch of inspiration.

Making of: Others Will Follow

VFX Breakdowns and funny funny stuff from the set of Others Will Follow

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Mark-kitteh, Dann, Michael J. Walsh, Steve Davidson, Cat Eldridge, Andrew, and Rose Mitchell for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brad J.]

Sawyer in New BookBale Bundle

Through November 30 you can name your own price (so long as it’s at least $2.99) for a BookBale ebook bundle with these six novels —

  • Climbing Olympus by Kevin J. Anderson
  • The Jesus Incident by Frank Herbert & Bill Ranson
  • Future Perfect by Nancy Kress
  • The Elvenbane by Mercedes Lackey & Andre Norton
  • Birthright: The Book of Man by Mike Resnick
  • Starplex by Robert J. Sawyer

StarplexRobert J. Sawyer says it’s the first time ever that Starplex has been available as an ebook, and that will last only until the end of November.

Those willing to pay $10 or more for the bundle will get two bonus books, Citizen of the Galaxy by Heinlein and The Hemingway Hoax by Haldeman.

All books are in both Mobi (Kindle) and ePub (Kobo, Nook, Sony, etc.) formats, and are DRM-free.

[Thanks to Robert J. Sawyer for the story.]

Baen Ebooks Also Being Sold Through Sony

Ebook pioneer Baen Books is making its ebooks available through Reader Store from Sony for the first time beginning August 9, 2013.

Baen Books has sold its own ebooks for over 13 years at its retail site, Baenebooks.com. These ebooks have always been totally free of digital rights restrictions. 

The move to third-party distribution is relatively new territory for Baen, which has built a name for itself in the ebook arena with an innovative e-Advanced Reading Copy program and limited time monthly discount bundles.  These programs will continue, according to Toni Weisskopf, Baen Publisher.

“We are excited for the chance to work with Sony. Now it will be easier than ever to download your favorite Weber, Ringo, or Correia ebook to your ebook reader,” says Toni Weisskopf, Baen Publisher. “The DRM-free model will not change, and you can be sure we will always maintain our famous ebook pioneering spirit and customer-first orientation.”

Harry Potter’s Sales Wizardry

Pottermore.com sold £3 million worth of Harry Potter books in its first month reports The Bookseller.com. The store went online March 27 and rang up £1 million of sales in its first three days of operation.

The books are sold DRM-free. A spokesman for Pottermore said piracy has diminished since an initial increase because “the community had rejected these illegal versions.” Translation: Piracy hasn’t been stopped, but customers will buy from the legitimate source if they like the price and the platform is easy to use.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Tor’s DRM-atic Announcement

Tom Doherty Associates, publishers of Tor, Forge, Orb, Starscape, and Tor Teen, will make their entire list of e-books DRM-free by July. The imprints had a combined 30 New York Times bestsellers in 2011.

Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies are designed to give the seller control over the transferability of content after it has been delivered to the consumer. E-books in the Amazon Kindle format, for example, are readable on that company’s devices, but not those of its rivals. DRM is justified as an anti-piracy measure.

“Our authors and readers have been asking for this for a long time,” said president and publisher Tom Doherty. “They’re a technically sophisticated bunch, and DRM is a constant annoyance to them. It prevents them from using legitimately-purchased e-books in perfectly legal ways, like moving them from one kind of e-reader to another.”

Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing reacted by breezily predicting –

[More] to follow, I’m sure; I’ve had contact with very highly placed execs at two more of the big six publishers…

On the other hand, Laura Hazard Owen at CNN Money questions whether Macmillan itself, the big company that owns Tor, will adopt this policy across the board  —

One should not necessarily infer, from the changes at Tor, that Macmillan is close to dropping DRM across all of its imprints. This decision could be related to competition within the genre (sci-fi/fantasy publishers Baen and Angry Robot are also DRM-free) or to Doherty’s specific role at Macmillan.

Presumably, John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan, who made the final decision to drop DRM on ebooks from Tor/Forge (according to Charles Stross) will watch how it plays out.

A move affecting only the sf/fantasy market still benefits fans wanting the freedom to store and manage their ebook collections on any device they choose.

One of Tor’s top authors, John Scalzi, is in favor of the change. He thinks DRM is an unnecessary impediment to sales. 

Does this mean it’s easier for someone to violate my copyright? It does. But most people don’t want to violate my copyright. Most people just want to own their damn books. Now they will. I support that.

Charles Stross has posted arguments he was invited to make to Macmillan brass about the decision to drop DRM. He admits DRM makes no difference to those who buy a few top bestsellers a year, however, he told execs it makes a big difference to some of the most devoted book buyers.

The voracious 20-150 books/year readers are a small but significant market segment. These people buy lots of titles. They frequently have specialized interests which they pursue in depth, and a large number of authors who, although not prominent, they will buy everything by… Previously they bought paperbacks and hardcovers from specialist genre bookstores or, failing that, from large B&N/Borders branches. They will go to whatever retailer they can find online, and they find DRM a royal pain in the ass — indeed, a deterrent to buying ebooks at all.

It’s no secret he’s talking about sf fans, since he mentions us explicitly a few lines later…

Harder To Burn This Way

What? Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 couldn’t be purchased in electronic format ‘til last month? Ah, but let’s remember who we’re talking about. Ray Bradbury loves libraries filled with words on paper, and once said e-books “smell like burned fuel.”

However, agent, Michael Congdon says he explained to Bradbury that his book rights were expiring and a new contract would be impossible without allowing for e-books, which yield an estimated 20 percent of total sales.

I guess Ray thereupon decided to hold his nose with one hand and sign with the other.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Bill of Rights for E-Book Authors

The Writers’ Union of Canada has released A Writer’s Bill of Rights for the Digital Age to benefit the creators of literary works in Canada:

1

Copyright legislation shall ensure the protection of intellectual property and appropriate compensation for rightsholders.

2

Exceptions to copyright shall be minimized.

3

The publisher shall split the net proceeds of ebook sales equally with the author.

4

The author shall retain all electronic rights not specifically granted to the publisher or producer and shall have approval of any modifications made to the work.

5

The publisher shall not exercise or sublicense ebook publishing rights without the express authorization of the author.

6

When a book is out of print in print form, continuing sales in electronic form shall not prevent a rights reversion to the author.

7

For ebooks, the publisher in its contract shall replace the traditional “out of print” clause that triggers a rights reversion with a sales volume clause (e.g., less than a specified quantity of ebooks sold in a specified number of royalty periods) and/or a finite term of license (e.g., five years).

8

When rights revert, the publisher shall provide the author with the digital file of the book.

9

The Public Lending Right Commission shall provide author payments for electronic books and allot additional monies to this end.

10

Libraries shall acquire digital copies of works in their collections only from rightsholders or their licensing agencies.

11

Ebook retailers shall require the rightsholder’s permission for any free preview or download of an electronic work, and the rightsholder shall specify the maximum amount to be made available.

12

Agents, publishers, aggregators, retailers, and libraries shall ensure that works in digital form will be well protected and will not be shared, traded, or sold outside the boundaries authorized by the contract.

Greg Hollingshead, chairman of the Writers’ Union of Canada, responds to questions about the bill of rights in an interview by the Edmonton Journal:

Q: Many writers seem content to leave matters of digital rights to their agents. Why is it important they are educated?

A: First, in Canada only about 20 per cent of writers have agents.

Second, we believe it’s always important for writers to understand what is, or is not, being done in their name. This is a transformative time in the industry, and it seems important to us that writers not allow the other players in the digital arena to decide what is best for them. There needs to be dialogue, and for this writers need to be informed, and as a union we need to have a clearly stated position, both for our members to consider and discuss and for ourselves to go with to publishers and government.

A post at Iguana Books offers rebuttal and comment, for example:

8. When rights revert, the publisher shall provide the author with the digital file of the book.

This is a can of worms. “The file” usually contains material that the author doesn’t have the copyright for – images, designs, text (such as the index) that other writers have prepared. What the writer actually needs is the file and the list of permissions associated with the publication, so that all other rightsholders can be compensated if their material is used in a new edition.

[Thanks to John Mansfield for the story.]

Don’t Stop the Presses

Have you heard? Rather than being pushed to the edge of extinction by trends in electronic publishing, English-language printed books have an unlimited future — in India:

“Books matter more in India than anywhere else we publish them,” added Makinson, whose Penguin Group is one of the world’s largest English-language publishers.

While book sales slip in most western countries, the non-academic book market in India is currently growing at a rate of 15 to 18 percent annually, as rapid economic growth swells literacy rates and adds millions to the middle class every year.

[Source: Reuters. Thanks to David Klaus for the link.]

Francis Hamit: A New Business Model

Francis Hamit of Brass Cannon Books, author of The Shenandoah Spy, shares his new strategy for pricing e-books (from a discussion posted on LinkedIn today):

A NEW BUSINESS MODEL: We are making the price of the e-book edition the same as that of the least expensive print edition.

Most of our publishing since 2004 has been in e-books. Originally we followed the conventional wisdom that e-books should cost less because they are virtual rather than real-world products. We had most titles at about $1.95. We distribute through Ingram, so we only receive, net, 45% of that price. We found that some online retailers were marking up our titles to $9.95 and keeping the difference. We also found that we have no control over what other people charge. Most of this material, more than sixty titles in all, are recycled trade magazine articles of limited interest to the general public. It sells slowly. We raised the price to $4.99. That gives us a net of $2.25 per copy. The rest goes to paying for distribution.  These items are available in just three formats, Adobe, Microsoft Reader and Sony Reader. They sell best in the Sony format. We have one fiction piece “Buying Retail” for 49 cents and that sells ten times as many copies than the rest, but it’s an entertainment product rather than an information one.  Given our new orientation towards fiction and other narrative forms, it’s a sampler. A leader item to attract readers for The Shenandoah Spy and other works of fiction.

It recently came to me, in the wake of the dust-up with Amazon and the big publishers over pricing that anyone who can spend several hundred dollars for the coolness and convenience of an electronic book reader can afford to pay full price for a book, regardless of format. Mr. Bezos may consider all books as just another online commodity to be sold at high velocity at the lowest possible price to gain market share, but my view is that every book is unique and has value regardless of the way it was produced. The current system locks me into surrendering more than half the fair market price of my book to others to get it to the customers.  Each format has front end costs which must be recovered. And I don’t care which format the customer prefers.

I want my percentage.  Making an e-book version available is a accommodation to a customer, but it’s a convenience they should pay a fair price for. My own preference is to sell the print edition and have done with it.  So, if you want to read the book electronically, you pay the same price.

Now some retailers routinely cut the price, but that doesn’t matter to me since that discount comes from their end of the deal and not mine. I have to maintain per-copy margins to survive as a business. I own this book and have put it out at a fair price. Certainly, it’s not the only one on the shelf, but if you want to read it then you have to buy it from me, unless you buy a used copy or deal with pirates. And if you do that, then you were never really a potential customer anyway, were you?

I will cut the price of the e-book edition in the future to match the least priced paperback in the U.S. market. I think if other publishers follow my lead this will resolve a lot of the current problems of print versus electronic pricing.