The Question of Value Part 2 – Responses

Wow. What a weekend. Views for The Question of Value continue to pour in from every corner of the web, from everywhere from news aggregate sites to tumblr. And with those views came comments, questions, concerns, and even discussion.

Now, I did my best to read each of the reactions I got to The Question. In fact, I even went as far as to not just read the aggregate listings and response pieces, but comments posted there as well. And while some simply retreaded things that had already been discussed (one even tackled the dead horse subject I pointed out I was going to ignore … so I did ignore it) I found there was a lot being said.

The conclusion? I may have been the one to voice it, but this topic, this question of how we value the mighty ebook is not something that I alone have been thinking on. There are a lot of you out there who’ve got opinions and thoughts on the matter. Even better, a lot of these thoughts overlap and coincide. For example, in comments I read just here, on my sister blog, and in one response post, at least five different people brought up the topic of resale. Several brought up durability (and at least one amusing comment brought up multiple people citing that an ebook couldn’t be read in a shower by asking how they were reading normal books in one). DRM was addressed, as was licensing in general. And do you know what I learned most of all in reading all of these?

The market is failing the readers.

Okay, now that might sound like a harsh judgement to pass, and perhaps I could voice it differently (also, that could be taken way out of context, so aggregate sites, you do not have permission to use that line without context). When I say market, for the most part, I’m not referring to the books themselves, or what the authors are producing, though in a way, we share part of the blame.

No, what I’m referring to here is the actual market and the way ebooks are being handled. That is what is failing the readers.

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The Question of Value

There’s an interesting thought I’ve had bouncing around my head for over a month now, and all the more lately as a result of several other articles and blogs I’ve read that unknowingly touched on the topic in a way, but … how do we value an e-book?

I find that it’s an interesting question with a lot of variety in what I would suppose would be answers … though technically, these are supposed based on what other people online have stated and said about ebooks. But I still find it an interesting thought: what value are we placing on our ebooks?

I ask because as a whole, it appears that to most, the answer is “little.” Most commentary I’ve seen from online, or been the recipient of, is that an ebook is inherently of little value by nature of being an ebook. While a hardcover or a paperback copy of something such as The Wheel of Time is generally seen as holding an intrinsic value, the ebook of the same will often be derided as “overpriced” or “too expensive,” even though the ebook is already slightly cheaper.

Now, I’m not going to get into the whole debate of “But an ebook should be so much cheaper because it’s not physical” because that particular point has been trounced so thoroughly by authors and industry professionals much better than I that it’s no longer a dead horse, but rather a meaty, ground-up paste that was once a dead horse on the floor. There’s no point in discussing that. The majority cost of the physical aspect of a book has not been the actual tangible costs in a long time. It’s time, editing, marketing, etc. Just like a restaurant is not so much the cost of the ingredients as it is the time and preparation skill. So, if you were already planning a comment discussing that, don’t. You might as well be arguing that jet fuel can’t melt steel beams.

Back to the topic at hand, considering the idea that customers aren’t holding an ebook to be of similar value, I find this a fascinating conundrum to consider: Why does the public hold this view? It’s an odd, strange view to take, in light of the rest of society’s embracing of the digital. But in ebooks, there’s this strange idea that an ebook does not have value. In fact a few weeks ago I encountered one poor, confused soul who declared that since ebooks tended to pay an author a higher royalty, the prices of an ebook should be adjusted to compensate, and then volunteered their own numbers (pulled out of a sunless place) to declare that ebooks should cost no more than 10% of the cost of a physical book because that was fair compensation.

Obviously, this is laughable. And I and a few others did have a good laugh about it later at LTUE, because that’s again one of those arguments that doesn’t understand it’s beating a dead horse. But the point remains, and this is what I haven’t stopped wondering about over the last few months … Why? Why is it that a public that seems to have the understanding of “I’m paying for content” with so many other products doesn’t get this with books at all?

Because, let’s face it, in other market areas where space is shared by digital and physical, there’s not a huge assortment of people crying for reduced prices. You don’t see articles from music sites talking about how MP3 downloads are worthless and shouldn’t cost more than ten cents. You don’t see game review sites asking how dare Steam or Origin have a digital game on launch day cost the same as its physical compatriots.

So why in the book industry is this such a problem? Why is it that a person will look at a digital MP3 download from their favorite artist and buy it without a second of remorse, but then look at a digital book from their favorite author and send them an angry message about how that ebook shouldn’t be more than a dollar?

I don’t actually have an answer to this question. All I have are theories based on what I’m reading and hearing from other people around the internet. Maybe you’ll agree with some of these, maybe you won’t. But all of these are things I’ve heard expressed in one way or another.

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Being a Better Writer: The Process of Editing

Editing is a curious thing. Almost everyone agrees that it’s something a written work needs to have. But by the same token, it’s one thing that I’ve noticed that, in my time as an author, many people don’t actually agree upon or know much about what it entails. The most accurate consensus I could assemble from what I’ve read and heard from casual writers (not dedicated authors) or the average layperson is that editing is about making a written work better. It’s about fixing the mistakes.

Now, that doesn’t sound bad at all. But here’s the thing: What do people mean when they say “fixing the mistakes?” And that’s where the root of today’s topic comes from.

See, you’d be hard pressed to find a reader of books somewhere that wouldn’t make a case that editing is something a manuscript needs. But if you ask them what goes into editing, you’ll get something like “Well, you know, fixing errors and stuff.”

Yes. “And stuff.” While that’s an answer that makes sense and technically is accurate, it really doesn’t give the discerning writer much to go off of. After all, there can be a lot of errors in “stuff.” And this vagueness in turn makes it difficult for new writers, first-timers pushing out their skills to try and get their first manuscript together, to understand what they need to do to fix errors, or even what those are. It’s a bit like asking someone to fix a car and then, when asked what’s wrong with it, giving the answer “stuff.” Not only is it not helpful, but those who have worked on cars (or really, done any big tune-up project) know from experience that there are some things that matter more than others, or need to be done in a certain order.

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Being a Better Writer: Worldbuilding Names

This post was originally written and posted January 26th, 2015, and has been touched up and reposted here for archival purposes.

And so, with the death of the king, the land fell into darkness. Bereft of the powers of light carried by his crown, evil filled the kingdom, spreading suffering and death in its wake. The people despaired as their once peaceful, idyllic lives were beset by crime, villainy, and evil. The once-chancellor Valkeriank—

“Wait, what?”

The chancellor. Valkeriank. You know, the one who murdered the king?

“Well, yeah, but what kind of name is Vala— … Valker— … Valla-something?

What’s wrong with it? It’s a perfectly ordinary name

“It doesn’t look like it.”

Well it is. Now, to continue with the story. As I was saying, the once-chancellor Valkeriank, assisted by his henchman Grotkkv—

“Okay, now that’s just ridiculous.”

What?

“Gro—Grot-kk— … Yeah, I have no idea how to pronounce that. Grot-kiv? Gro-tik-vee? And who spells a name like that? It’s got two Ks in it!

It’s a perfectly acceptable name in this kingdom.

“The king’s name was Jack.”

So?

“So what kind of kingdom has a range of names from ‘Jack’ to ‘Valkerwink’ and whatever that last one is?”

A multi-cultural one.

“Right. You sure you’re not just making stuff up? And what other cultures? The map at the front of the book doesn’t talk about any other lands! There’s just “The Known Kingdom.”

Oh, they’re out there. Look, can we just move on? You’re making this very difficult.

“Fine.”

Ahem. As I was saying, assisted by his henchman Grotkkv, the chancellor ruled with an iron fist. The only hope of the people was a name.

“Is it a real name?”

Shut up. Anyway, the only hope of the people during this time was the missing prince, Prince Shadow—

“What. The. Abomination.”

Oh, now what are you on about?

“Prince Shadow? Could you get any more cliche?”

What? It’s a perfectly fitting name! He’s like shadow of justice, moving through the night. Brooding and mysterious! It’s edgy!

“So his dad—who’s name was Jack, just to reiterate to make sure I’m not pronouncing it? It’s not Ja’ack? No, anyway, so his dad, the king, looks at his baby son and says ‘I’m going to name him Shadow?'”

Yes.

“I … You know what? Fine. Move on.”

I’d like to. Now, the only hope of the people during this time was the missing prince, Prince Shadow, a noble warrior who fought against evil …

“What? Why are you looking at me like that?”

Nothing, nothing. Anyway … And so, all across the kingdom of Lt’Namur’ik””t’sephat—

“That’s it! I’m done!”

What? What did I do? Was it too few apostrophes? I knew it! It was too few, wasn’t it! It doesn’t feel authentic enou—hey, where are you going? We’ve only just started! We’re not even off of the first page? There’s still two-hundred and seventy-four more to go! Don’t you want to hear what happens when Prince Shadow faces the dark beast of the Undershadows? In the dead land of Y’rrr’itquart? You’ll love it! Come on! You’re missing out!

Names. They’re kind of a big deal, which is why we’re talking about them today (in case you hadn’t guessed). Because despite how entertaining that little clip above you might have been, a good chunk of the humor in it comes from having been that poor reader. You know, the one who suffers through names of places that have way too many apostrophes. Or the place name that’s completely unpronounceable. Or the character name that just entirely shatters the mold of the world simply because the author wanted them to have a cool name.

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Being a Better Writer: Micro-Blast #2

Hello again, readers, to another Monday! I hope yours looks a bit better than mine, at least outside your windows. We’re catching the tail-end of a winter storm here, and so the world outside looks a grey smear of clouds with a slow trickle of rain. At least, what I’d consider a slow trickle of rain. It’s a bit more for most here considering the desert environment.

I’m not griping. It just looks depressingly grey outside.

Anyway, onto this week’s topic! Or, more accurately, topics. As such, this post will probably be a shorter one. I know, I’ve said that before and ended up writing something just as long as always, but last time I did one of these, it went by quick.

If you’re unfamiliar with what a micro-blast is, I’ve done one before. Basically, a micro-blast is what happens when I have a bunch of shorter, easier topics that don’t need a full post, but I still want to tackle them.

So, with that out of the way, let’s get to it!

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Side Bar and Other News

Just some little small things going on, poking around the site. First, if you’ve been hanging around Unusual Things for long you might have noticed that the sidebar got a bit of an update late last night. It now has a “Latest Release” box, which as you might guess, gives a link straight to whatever the current release is.

The other thing that’s going on (and this is admittedly less small news) is that my writing is about to take a small bit of a slowdown. Simply put, despite living as light as possible while still actually living, my finances are at the breaking point, and I’m looking to pick up additional work in order to make rent next month. So, unfortunately, my writing is about to slow down. I wish it wasn’t so, but that’s how it’s going to be, unfortunately, until my income picks up enough that I can get back to writing the majority of the time.

Does this suck a bit? Yes. Yes it does. And it likely will slow down my work at getting Colony published by May (though maybe I’ll still get lucky), so there goes my goal of publishing 1,000,000 words in under a year. Maybe.

But I like my cheap apartment (you can’t get cheaper here, and I’m at the max legal number of roommates), and I can’t drop my health insurance (thanks, Obama, and that wasn’t sarcasm), which would save me $100+ a month. So another job it is.

Sorry guys. More on this as it develops. Hopefully I’ll be able to at least keep BaBW going up each week, as I have for the last 3 years.

Wish me luck! Or, you know, support me on Patreon or by buying a book. That helps too.

The Loud Neighbor

So my neighbors make a little bit of noise. Sometimes a lot of noise.

That’s fine. I’m okay with this. They have several kids. They live above us. Sometimes they have parties and want to play music. They laugh, they watch movies, they have an ordinary life. Sometimes that ordinary life is a little loud.

Again, I’m okay with this. Because I know, and am quite aware of the fact, that myself and my roommates are fairly loud as well. I know that most of the time our noise is kept at a sufficiently low volume that they don’t hear us, but then there are the times that we have parties, that we have late night movie showings, and we want to hear that T-Rex roar from Jurassic Park in our bones. And I’m aware that at those moments, they can probably hear us. I’d be surprised if they couldn’t.

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