Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Support Pagan Authors....and Readers

Cross posted from Avalon Blessings

This post is inspired by the following:-

The Ethicist - E-Book Dodge - A NY Times Magazine article by Randy Cohen about the effects "windowing" is having on the book buying market.
Writer Beware: Questionable Ethics? - A response to Mr. Cohen's article by Victoria Strauss.
Haikujaguar: A Three Micahs Interlude - M. C. A. Hogarth's response to Ms. Strauss' response which provides a different perspective.

For those who don't wish to read all three articles, the gist is:-

A book buyer wrote to Mr. Cohen with her dilemma - she wanted to buy an e-version of Stephen King's new book but one wasn't available. She bought the hard back but then downloaded a pirated copy because she wanted to put it on her e-reader to take with her on a long journey. Mr. Cohen's position was that although the buyer did do something technically illegal, ethically she did what she felt she had to do in the circumstances and should not be crucified for it. He then went on to discuss what publishers call "windowing", i.e., they withhold the release of e-book versions to encourage sales of the hard back versions so that they make more money. Ms. Strauss' position was that the buyer was wrong to download a pirated version even though she bought the hard back version. Ms. Hogarth says that when it comes to piracy that authors are immediately attacking their readers rather than putting blame where it needs to be - with the publishers who are doing their utmost to milk the buyers by forcing them to choose either to buy the hard back version or penalising them by making them wait for a paperback or e-version. She believes that authors need to remember their readers and use this situation to their advantage by taking their publishers to task for not offering books in the a way that will benefit all.

It reminded me of a conversation I briefly had with one of my daughter's friends last week. I've recently purchased several e-books from Asteria Books; Laurelei Black having coming out with a couple new books and I also bought one of her older books. My daughter's friend mentioned I could probably download a copy for free.

But I said I wouldn't do that. Why? Leaving the legal and ethical arguments to the side for a moment, I wouldn't because Pagan authors, like Laurelei Black, deserve the financial support. They deserve to be paid for their work, especially because the work they're doing isn't in high demand anyway. As much as it would be lovely, we're not likely to see these books at the top of the NY Times Best Seller's List. Therefore these authors are not likely to be earning a great living from their book sales alone. For this reason, I would not download a pirated copy of Laurelei's books or any other Pagan author's book.

It seems that if someone writes a book, it is expected that they are doing well financially from the sales of it. Knowing a lot of writers, I know this isn't necessarily so. Some do ok and earn a comfortable living off of their book sales. More power to them. But it isn't always so. There's no guarantee that once a book is published it will sell or sell well and selling books is as competitive a market as anything else out there. This can be especially true when it comes to writing in such a specialised area as Paganism which breaks down even further into very specialised topics. Therefore, I reckon it's much more difficult for an author to achieve sales, let alone sales that will earn them a decent living.

On the other hand, it does seem to me that publishers need to get with the program a bit. With e-readers becoming ever more popular, it seems it was inevitable that the book selling industry would encounter similar issues to those of the music industry. In Pagan book publishing, pretty much all books put out are paperbacks. So there isn't this "windowing" going on with making people wait for a book to go into paperback. So why not offer e-versions right away too?

As far as I can tell, Asteria Books is an exception and not a rule. I could not find any Pagan publishers who gave the option of buying an e-version of a book directly from them (if there are others - please direct me!). Even Amazon, who brought us Kindle, does not appear to have e-books readily available unless you have a Kindle (and even then their selection appears limited).

I like e-books for the following considerations:-

1. I'm technically unemployed. Priestess work has not yet yielded me much of an income. Money is tight. I appreciate the opportunity to purchase books at a lower cost.

2. We are a family of four living in a one bedroom flat. Space is very tight. I have limited space for books. E-books mean I don't have to be concerned about lack of space (except for maybe on my hard drive).

3. Purchasing a physical copy of a book brings the price up because of postage costs. In the case of Laurelei's books, they weren't all readily available on Amazon UK either, which would have meant ordering a hard copy would rack up not only postage but air miles and increase my carbon footprint. Ordering an e-book version by passed all of that and I got the added bonus of getting the books a whole lot faster.

I don't buy a lot of books because I don't have loads of money to, nor the space to keep them. I can't afford an e-reader because they are, at the moment, cost prohibitive, not just to me but to quite a lot of people. So does this mean that I, and others like me, should be completely cast out of the book buying market? I'd like to think not but it does appear that publishers, and even some authors, think so since neither are taking steps to ensure that their books can reach a wider market by making them readily available in this newer way.

I reckon as time goes on and e-readers get more popular the price will come down to a more feasible-for-me level and I will likely buy one. That may not be for a few years. In the meantime, I shall support Pagan authors when I am able to because I believe they deserve to be. I hope one day that Pagan publishers and major booksellers will begin supporting the people buying the books by making e-versions more readily available. The demand is there and increasing.


  1. Very nice discussion of intellectual property and ethics -- a road that travels in both directions, as you say. I think making that intellectual property too pricey to purchase encourages theft. It's a harsh reality, but still a reality. Better to find a work-around than curse the thief.

    As a note, we sell more copies of the e-books than the hard copies. It's a niche market, to begin. And it turns out that this niche likes its e-books. Who wouldn't? They're convenient, compact and affordable. Hard copies cost more because of the printing cost alone, and shipping can be exorbitant -- especially for non-US based readers. (Actually, Asteria's e-books first came online at the request of some Aphrodisian readers in Belgium and Brazil. It was literally the only way they could get the books.)

    And you're right, love, that most Pagan authors aren't making much money for their writing efforts. We all know it isn't lucrative, but we do it more in service of our communities and the Gods than in search of money. (Right now, I'm saving my residuals to put an Aphrodite icon at a festival sanctuary I attend regularly.)

  2. "As a note, we sell more copies of the e-books than the hard copies."

    That's very interesting! And also very telling as to what direction book buying is going in. I commend you for trailblazing in this regard. Well done!!!

    "We all know it isn't lucrative, but we do it more in service of our communities and the Gods than in search of money."

    Well that's quite right. I reckon the bulk of Pagan authors will say their book(s) were Divinely inspired in some manner and a need to put the information out there. As a reader, I'm grateful that people like you and my teacher/mentor, Kathy Jones, have done so.

    Many thanks for your thoughts, Laurelei! xoxoxo

  3. Oh, I adore Kathy Jones! (I was on an Avalonian path *years* ago.) I have her Goddess in Glastonbury book. Good stuff!

  4. Wow! I'm envious! That book is out of print now although she offers an e-version for free on her website. Kathy's a wonderful lady and I've been very fortunate to have her as a teacher, mentor and friend.