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I’m told Jeff Trexler, whose identification of the “instance and expense” aspect of the lawsuit may have helped get that into the petition to the Supremes, is writing his summary for TCJ.com, so while we all eagerly await that, here’s a little of the known knowns and known unknowns:
First off, Mark Evanier, a Kirby family confidant, a witness at various Kirby-related trials and filier of an amicus curiae brief is certainly in a position to know more of the Kirby position and this is all he had to say on the matter:
It was announced this morning that the family of Jack Kirby has settled with Marvel Comics (i.e., Disney) ending a very long dispute. The Supreme Court was only days from considering whether to take on the case and obviously, the timing of this settlement has much to do with both sides’ concern with what would get decided there.
If you’re coming to this page in search of details and commentary, you’ve come to the wrong place. I will be saying nothing about it other that I am real, real happy. And I’m sure Jack and his wife Roz, if they’re watching this from wherever they are, are real, real,real happy.
That’s either great fronting or a pretty solid indication that the Kirbys got what they were looking for. Since Evanier was intimately involved in the case, it’s probably legally all he can say. But if Mark thinks Jack is smiling, I’m smiling.
Charles Hatfield has a good round up of the ins and outs of the case itself, the many friend of the court briefs, and how the case grew in importance as more Hollywood vested interest signed on.
However, news of the cert petition reignited publicity over the case, and in May SCOTUS discussed the case in conference, after which the Court requested a response from Marvel. Then, in June, things started to happen: several important amici curiae briefs supporting the Kirbys’ petition brought high-profile attention to the case. One of these was filed on behalf of Kirby biographer Mark Evanier, Jack Kirby Collector publisher and editor John Morrow, and the PEN Center USA (a nonprofit representing diverse writers).
In addition, the California Society of Entertainment Lawyers filed a brief. Another brief that became very important for the press coverage of the case was submitted by Bruce Lehman, former Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Director of the US Patent and Trademark Office, and an authority on intellectual property law. Lehman filed in collaboration with former US register of copyrights Ralph Oman, the Artists Rights Society, and the International Intellectual Property Institute; they were joined by the American Society of Illustrators, the National Cartoonists Society, the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, and other organizations representing arts professionals—as well as scores of cartoonists and illustrators who also signed on.
Kurt Busiek has been debunking some common myths about the case in the Beat’s own comments, but perhaps because Beat commenters are just smarter or less pig-headed than the average commenter, he saved his masterpiece in the genre for this CBR thread where he debunks from all times that the Kirby heirs were just greedy and opportunistic. (Link via Tom Spurgeon) He also speculates about the outcome, just like Iim gonna do in a few paragraphs:
Based on that, it sure doesn’t look like Marvel’s throwing the Kirbys a few bucks to go away. If that’s what they wanted to do, they could have done that any time within the last few years. Whoever blinked, it was the side that had the most to lose if the case went to the Supreme Court and risked a ruling they didn’t like.
That wasn’t the Kirbys — they were already getting nothing, so the Supreme Court deciding against them wouldn’t hurt them any.
But Disney/Marvel has billions on the line. They don’t want to risk losing that. Not even with a pro-business Supreme Court likely to rule for them. Because they’re not sure the Court would rule for them. Not with a bunch of people on the other side who make IP contracts their life — including one of the guys who helped write the 1978 Copyright Law. If that guy is saying, “No, no, it doesn’t work that way,” there’s too much of a chance that the Court will listen.
So my prediction is: All the public changes you see coming out of this are going to be favorable to the Kirbys. Probably the first thing you see will be creator credits. And the family’s going to suddenly be financially secure, like their father/grandfather wanted them to be.
What the “greedy heirs” morons don’t get is that this was a case with very important principles set off by the Copyright Law of 1976 regarding what is work for hire. As Kevin Melrose reports of a Law.com article, many issues remains undecided by the settlement, and it’s entirely possible that these will crop up again and the Supreme Court may yet hear such a case:
The Kirby heirs insisted the artist was an independent contractor who worked from home, provided his own supplies and received no benefits. However, he Second Circuit, using its frequently criticized “instance and expense” test, found that because Marvel assigned and approved projects and paid a page rate, Kirby’s contributions were indeed “for hire.”
The Kirbys took aim at the Second Circuit’s definition of work for hire in their petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, which drew support from the likes of Hollywood guilds and a former director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, demonstrating the potentially far-reaching ramifications of the dispute. However, the 11th-hour settlement announcement arrived just ahead of a Supreme Court conference on Monday to determine whether to review the case — meaning the Second Circuit’s finding stands.
So the gray area surrounding work for hire before 1978 remains, although experts say given that 56-year window — or 35 years for copyrights transferred after 1979 — it’s only a matter time before another case, more likely to involve a musician/songwriter than a comics artist, makes its way to the Supreme Court, requiring the justices to weigh in.
As Kirby family attorney Marc Toberoff told Law.com, “At some point there will be another case like this.”
While it seems unlikely from the outside that SCOTUS would ever have sided with the Kirby heirs, Marvel didn’t know, and a happy smiling settlement was vastly to everyone’s benefit. And more to the point, there’s no such thing as secret in entertainment any more. As Joshua Riviera writes for EW:
One of the great things about modern pop culture isn’t just the wealth of content available, but the interest it has spurred in the creators behind it. Showrunners, once an invisible position in the broadcast era, are now at the forefront of fans’ minds when obsessing over TV. Similarly, the public perception of filmmakers has slowly evolved from the days of the monolithic studio system to accommodate directors and screenwriters and cinematographers and composers and VFX teams and crew. Comics have come a long way from the 60s, which saw Jack Kirby slowly become frustrated with the business that grew and endures to this day thanks in large part to his labors—now many comics are sold based on the strength of the people making them. But the way comics creators are credited in other media based on their work is often lacking.
Yet, things have changed a lot from the days when Marv Wolfman was barred credits of Blade, setting off a lawsuit he eventually lost and the current spate of copyright battles. Nowadays, one imagines, Marv would be saluted at the Hall H panel and trotted around to talk shows. While it’s pretty clear that you need to lawyer up to get your share of whatever pie — mini or maxi — may exist, Marvel/Disney has become more sensitive to the bad publicity of the starving creator railing against the corporation as he rolls around in his ratty sleeping bag from his stately cardboard box on the street.
And now some speculation from me. Given the fair-enough-to-shut-them-up treatment of Jim Starlin and the family of Bill Mantlo over Guardians of the Galaxy, Disney and Marvel seem to be on a better path now. You can attribute that to the bad optics of the cardboard box creator, but I’m pretty sure most of the top brass at Marvel proper, including Dan Buckley, Joe Quesada and Axel Alonso, would wish to see creators fairly treated if it were within their powers. (The same was undoubtedly true of Paul Levitz and Jenette Kahn at DC.)
Given the huge, vocal and unending respect for the work of Jack Kirby by just about every creative type involved with all these “comic book movies,” I share the Busiek viewpoint that we’ll see more public inclusion of Kirby among the “Marvel founders.” Kirby always got acknowledgement in the credits of Marvel movies, but we could see more “created by” credits. Kirby could be inducted into the “Disney Legends” hall of fame type deal. Disney doesn’t do a ton to promote its actual creative people, but I’d expect to see Kirby enshrined as much as possible.
And now, here is my Torsten-like fantasy to end this. Maybe someday at Disneyland, as the Marvel character rides and characters and churros swirl, there could be a statue of Stan and Jack as they create the Marvel Universe as we first knew it. I’m not sure Jack would have really liked that, but the victors write history, and I’m pretty sure that Jack Kirby is a victor now.
When I began work on my book, I knew I would be fortunate enough to experience a few moments of “Pinch me. This can’t really be happening.” There were, as it turned out, so many that I’d be black and blue if there was actual pinching going on. But of all of those moments, I think the highlight would have to be spending a day at Disneyland with Carol Channing and her late husband, Harry, who were then 90 and 91 respectively.
I had interviewed Carol the day before in front of an adoring audience at the annual Gay Days at Disneyland. But it had been decades since Carol had been in the park and the last time she was, her tour guide was, um, Walt Disney. She had a picture to prove it. Carol, Walt, and Maurice Chevalier on Main Street, USA! I couldn’t exactly beat that, but I did what I could. I mapped out the day with a full compliment of attractions starting gently enough with “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln,“ an indoor show at which a robotic Abe recites the Gettysburg address. Carol was moved to tears. “It’s Walt!” she exclaimed. “This whole attraction is his spirit. Exactly who he was.” We emerged just in time to hear the Disneyland Marching Band emphatically playing “When the Saints Go Marching In.” We clapped along before we hopped on “The Disneyland Railroad,” a steam train that circles the park. Carol grabbed my hand as we approached and began singing at full voice, “Put on your Sunday clothes when you feel down and out…” the song from Hello, Dolly! that culminates with the full company boarding a similar train. We sang together as we chugged along. I died.
Mickey Mouse bows to Carol Channing. Photo courtesy of Eddie Shapiro.
We rode the Peter Pan ride and the tea cups, we met Mickey Mouse (who literally got on his knees and bowed down to Carol), and we had our own boat on “It’s a Small World.” It was all just as I had planned it until… the unexpected. As we were walking through Fantasyland, Harry kept staring in the direction of the carousel. I hadn’t planned on an attraction as simple as the carousel because, well, it’s a carousel. But I couldn’t help but notice Harry’s interest. “Harry,” I asked, “did you want to ride the carousel?” “I’m lookin’ at it,” came the reply. “Well Harry,” I said, “we’re here! If you want to ride it, let’s ride it.” We boarded and I went off in search of a nice bench for Carol and Harry. Carol seated herself but Harry was determined to mount a horse. At 91, however, he needed a hand or two, so I put my shoulder under his lower back and hoisted him up there. I then ran around to the other side and manually swung his leg astride the horse.
Harry, Carol Channing’s husband, on the carousel. Photo courtesy of Eddie Shapiro.
He was beaming, positively giddy. And in that moment, I realized that I was getting a major life lesson here. Carol and Harry were frail (he, in fact, passed less than three months later); one misstep could have been hugely consequential. A jostle from someone in the crowd could have been dire. But here they were, not just tasting everything life had to offer, but gobbling it up. If there was life to live, they were going to live it. And I thought to myself, “How does one become lucky enough to age into these people? Is it genetic? Is it a choice? What can I do to insure that when my golden years are upon me, I make them as golden as I can? Because these people have figured it out. They are who I aspire to be.”
When the sun was finally setting, we headed back to the hotel. I left them sitting in the lobby next to the grand piano while I went up to the room to retrieve their luggage. I returned just as the pianist was arriving for his set. He spied Carol and in no time he was gently tinkling the notes of “Hello, Dolly!” Before I knew what was happening, Carol was on her feet, one hand on the piano, the other aloft, belting out “Hello, Dolly!” for anyone who happened to be passing through the lobby of the Grand Californian Hotel at 4:30 in the afternoon. It was something to behold and a moment I will never, ever forget.
For months afterward, Harry would call me, just to say hello. “You don’t know the gift you gave us that day,” he would always end with. “Harry,” I’d always reply, “you don’t know the gift you gave me.”
Author Eddie Shapiro, Carol Channing, and her husband Harry on the tea cup ride at Disneyland. Photo courtesy of Eddie Shapiro.
As I suggested in my early con impressions, WonderCon had a reasonable amount of space and handled the numbers of attendees pretty well. It was no surprise that Saturday brought bigger numbers than Friday, and the crowding was more obvious, but still never reached that feeling of pushing and shoving that can easily erupt at crowded cons. The floor occasionally got backed up, particularly around the constantly slammed DC Comics booth, where big names like Scott Snyder appeared frequently for signings and the DC booth’s location, at the very front of the con entrance, contributed to some difficulty getting onto the floor. I noticed that the retail side of things was fairly busy, too, with some crowding and difficulty navigating, suggesting that plenty of fans were there to buy back issues and memorabilia, as well. The artists alley at WonderCon was a little on the scanty side in terms of size and numbers of tables, but those artists who were present were very engaging and passionate about their work. They seemed to have regular followers who were coming in to buy their artwork and there was a strong representation of the fine art side of fantasy prints and original work, as well as handmade arts and crafts.
Open areas like the food court and outside atrium were a welcome oasis, but it also continued to be easy to exit the con into the outdoor plaza areas for a rest and there was no difficulty with re-entry. Though the floor only allowed a couple of doors for access, the many exterior doors were open for comings and goings, with several food trucks outside, far enough from the entrance not to cause back ups. One other surprise was that Sunday seemed just as busy as Saturday, as I heard retailers commenting. They were turning over sales at just as high a rate that day. This feeling may be due to the fact that there were slightly fewer panels on Sunday, making the floor more of a feature, or simply that people waited to do their shopping on the floor on Sunday. When I stumbled into the Arena, a venue I hadn’t seen before, I was impressed with the numbers it could hold, and also that it was completely full for a Joss Whedon Shakespeare film adaptation event. This suggested to me that the con was handling numbers well, since I generally had no idea that so many people were even at the con on top of the numbers moving in the open spaces of the con. It was Easter Sunday the last day of the con, and it closed a little early, at 5PM, perhaps for this reason, but fans still had a sense that they would have been happy for the con to go on a little longer, a good sign regarding WonderCon’s appeal.
One final follow up: I suggested initially in my coverage that people might find WonderCon in Anaheim appealing due to Disneyland access, and that this would appeal to people will kids particularly. Though this turned out to be true, I also underestimated the appeal of Disneyland to singles and younger congoers. I went to Disneyland the following Monday and found that quite a number of WonderCon attendees were there too, from a younger demographic than I expected. You could tell from their conversations and generally less pastel clothing what guests were in town for the con, and I’d say about 1 in 10 were from the con in the massive crowds Disney drew on that post-Easter day.
Final thoughts: it was a well run and appealing con, offering plenty of choice in terms of panels, keeping up with what’s going on in comics and pop culture right now. Marvel were a little under represented, though Dan Slott was participating in panels, and several pros who were there for DC panels were formal Marvel people. Marvel didn’t have a booth on the floor, driving up the demand for DC variants and signings, which they happily accommodated. I was also impressed by the energetic presence of the mid-sized presses like Dark Horse, Archaia, Image, IDW, and ComiXology, for taking the opportunity to flourish and interact with fans when given a little more space to do so. The mid-sized presses really shone in their engagement with fans on the floor, their foresight in bringing new and upcoming books to purchase and get a sneak-peak at, and also through their involvement on panels. This gave the general impression that mid-sized presses are on the rise and taking on the role, collectively, as contenders for the Big Two. Good for them!
Whether WonderCon is in Anaheim again or back in San Francisco in the future, the planning and structure of the con should continue to hold up to make it a comfortable as well as enjoyable, exciting event for fans. This won’t be one of the cons where you have to sacrifice personal amenities just to see your favorite artists speak or get the variant your collection is calling for. They have a sense of putting the customer first at WonderCon and let’s hope that continues; it sets a good model for the growing con industry, and there are some bigger cons who could learn a thing or two from this.
Without further ado, some highlights of the con in photos from my trusty partner in crime Michele Brittany who proved her moxie as a pop culture photographer at WonderCon 2013 in spades. Thanks Michele!
Photo Credits: All photos in this article were taken by semi-professional photographer and pop culture scholar Michele Brittany. She’s an avid photographer of pop culture events. You can learn more about her photography and pop culture scholarship here.
Hannah Means-Shannon writes and blogs about comics for TRIP CITY and Sequart.org and is currently working on books about Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore for Sequart. She is @hannahmenzies on Twitter and hannahmenziesblog on WordPress.
Performers dressed as Minnie Mouse, Tigger and others danced and pranced as footage from “Snow White,” “Dumbo,” “Beauty and the Beast” and other Disney movies played on a massive backdrop, according to still photos shown on state TV.
The inclusion of characters popular in the West – particularly from the United States, North Korea’s wartime enemy – is a notable change in direction for performances in Pyongyang. Actors and actresses also showed off new wardrobes, including strapless gowns and little black dresses.
Disney merchandise has been imported from China, and North Korea has translated stories such as “Dumbo” for schoolchildren.
It is uncertain if Disney licensed the use of these characters, although the importation of American goods to North Korea is not completely prohibited.
Kim Jong Un, at 28 the youngest head of state in the world, is working hard to bolster his power base, as his elder brother, Kim Jong-nam, was the expected successor to Kim Jong-il. Ironically, Jong-nam’s stature was tarnished in 2001, when he used a fake passport to enter Japan to visit Tokyo Disneyland.
Disney has studied opening a small amusement center in Seoul, South Korea. They currently operate a Korean Disney Channel in partnership with South Korean telecomm
So! Recently I went to Disneyland (yaaaaaaaay!!). I'd totally get a season pass if I actually lived in SoCal... Anyway, I was able to snag some discount tickets from my fine friends & hopped both parks with the Biggers Clan.
Btw, totally kicked Kevin's butt on Astroblasters AND Toy Story 2 Midway Mania. HA!
Anyway, the trip got me nostalgic and I thought about the first time I went to Disneyland (it was the Biggers' first time ever!). I dug up these photos from my first trip. I guess my sister is kind of in the picture too (mom was hella pregs). My dad's hair was CRAZY!
Peter Pan at the time was my favorite Disney film and lookee who we got here!
Couldn't resist adding a little caption to this one. So HARDCORE!
Just trying to keep the momentum going with the drawing. I really wasn't able to do any drawing at Disneyland like I thought I might. But, I never really had the chance (even waiting with the baby for others to get off of rides). So, I took a bunch of pictures of interesting shapes and architecture to have fun with at a later date.
I did get a couple marks on a page once before being interrupted, so I just came home and doodled with them. Here's the result...fun stuff.
WeeWorld pays tribute to MJ and Farrah (offering virtual goods like Farrah's signature do and a placard that reads "I Heart MJ") (Virtual World News)
- 50 hours of SpongeBob (will air July 17-19 on Nickelodeon and VH1 to honor the cartoon's 10th... Read the rest of this post
Tweens' tamer style (takes a cue from the wholesome on-screen look of Miley Cyrus and the"HSM" cast. Plus EW asks whether the JoBros need to grow, i.e. rethink their upcoming Disney show, to keep their fanbase interested) (Los Angeles Times, reg.... Read the rest of this post
See you in Anaheim? Say Hi. I’m terrible with names and still an introvert, but I’m almost always approachable and ready to chat. And if I seem to be in a hurry…that’s just the way I walk, and shouldn’t carry any deeper meaning.
I’ll be at ALA starting from Friday sometime to Sunday late or Monday sometime. I am pretty much not available for one-on-one hangout mealtime but I really like running into people and finding ways to sort of co-conference.
After cycling off of Council I swore I wouldn’t work at another ALA conference unless someone paid my way. So, I’m presenting on a panel with Louise Alcorn on Saturday and MaintainIT is footing the bill. I’m getting day passes for Saturday and Sunday (blogging a panel then) and not registering for the conference which I can get away with because I’m not technically a librarian and not an ALA member anymore. I anticipate trouble.
Anyhow, here is my schedule. Please say hi if you see me. I’ll have my cell phone on me, ping me if you’d like the number, or it’s on facebook.
- arrive LA, dinner/stay with high school pal
- get to Anaheim somehow [anyone want to give me a ride? late morning?]
- Mover & Shaker lunch maybe (unlikely actually)
- dinner with Macee from MeFi
- my panel, 10:30-12
- MetaFilter meetup
- late night facebook meetup maybe
- ALA Privacy Panel 1-3 Room 201D (I’m blogging, not participating)
- OCLC Blogger thing @ Hilton, Palisades room
- get to LAX (share a shuttle, anyone?) fly home at noon
I’m staying with Louise Alcorn at the Disneyland Hotel, lord help us. Anyone else staying there?
I’m wrapping up the end of “talk season” here at librarian.net. I’ll be speaking at the Rhode Island Library Conference on June 6th and the Connecticut Library Consortium on June 9th. Then I’m done except for ALA. Yes, I’ll be going to ALA, giving a presentation with the incredibly talented Louise Alcorn for the MaintainIT people. It will be the first time I’ve been funded to go to a library conference… ever. Exciting times afoot at the Disneyland Hotel.
This afternoon I finished giving a talk online for the Education Institute. It was called Collaborative Information Systems & Reference Service and I’ve put a lot of notes and links online. Basically I talk about the changing nature of how people look for information and “Ask A” type services like Yahoo Answers and, of course, Ask MetaFilter. I have some statistics there that I think are sort of nifty. It’s very strange giving a talk online. I basically sent people to tmy website and then did a talk over the telephone. Except for the convenor, Liz Kerr, I wasn’t really aware of other people being present and it was unnerving. I know that continuing education is important and especially so for people who are too remote to go to standard talks or conferences, but I still feel like we’re trying to find a good delivery mechanism for this sort of content.
First, just a reminder that Lydia Millet will be reading tonight at McNally Robinson in Manhattan in support of her new novel How the Dead Dream, which is very much worth reading. I'm planning on being there, though will probably arrive a few minutes late.
Second, there are suddenly a bunch of free books available for download via their publishers and authors:
As many people have noted, Tor Books is giving away a free ebook each week to people who register with them. The current book is Spin by Robert Charles Wilson, which I happen to know is a book Lydia Millet is a fan of...
Nightshade Books has a few downloads available, including Richard Kadrey's Butcher Bird, which looks like it could be marvelous.
There has been plenty of chatter in the last few weeks about ebooks and ebook readers, technologies which might or might not dramatically transform how we buy and read books. But there has also been the odd item here and there speculating on the future of reading, examining how internet usage might affect how people actually look for and absorb information.
There is a school of thought that says that Gutenberg's invention of the printing press - leading to the demise of the illuminated manuscript and the transfer of knowledge by linear type - actually affected the way that people absorbed ideas and information and that Western Rationalism might not have taken hold without the orderly presentation of text. So it is not implausible to imagine that as more and more knowledge and information is transfered via the internet, with popup windows, embedded video, infographic boxes and all the other eye-catching frippery competing for attention, we might witness significant changes in the way we read, and perhaps in the way we actually think.
This is probably already happening - in The ObserverJohn Naughton quotes a report which described information seeking behaviour as 'horizontal, bouncing, checking and viewing in nature.' Teenagers, I was told today, start reading at the centre of a website moving outwards from the middle when something captures their digitally native eyes.
Of course not all books are linear - our sister company, Dorling Kindersley for example produces the most wonderfully designed and illustrated guides and reference books, but for fiction, generally, linearity is the rule. Beginnings, middles and ends. Words following words.
All of which is a roundabout way of saying that in a few weeks Penguin will be embarking on an experiment in storytelling (yes, another one, I hear you sigh). We've teamed up with some interesting folk and challenged some of our top authors to write brand new stories that take full advantage of the functionalities that the internet has to offer - this will be great writing, but writing in a form that would not have been possible 200, 20 or even 2 years ago. If you want to be alerted when this project launches sign up here - all will be revealed in March.
One of the things I don't think authors get is the concept of segregation in publishing. Let's go back to basics.
Segregation:[as defined by Merriam-Webster]
1: the act or process of segregating : the state of being segregated
2 a: the separation or isolation of a race, class, or ethnic group by enforced or voluntary residence in a restricted area, by barriers to social intercourse, by separate educational facilities, or by other discriminatory means b: the separation for special treatment or observation of individuals or items from a larger group
Now, let's skip ahead to understanding the production of one's books [with regard to segregation]. As a writer/author you probably hear a number of classifications for how books are published/produced.
Vanity: when you pay someone else to publish your work Self: when you pay to publish your own work eBook: when your book is only published electronically POD: when your book is printed one book at a time as ordered Traditional: when your book is published by a house in NY
I have placed these in the order in which I generally hear most people rate them, with vanity being the least valuable and traditional being the most. Okay, my question to you is who cares? Next question. Why?
Vanity. I will admit that I do not encourage authors who are seriously seeking a career in this industry to go out and pay someone to publish their work. Generally, you pay a lot of money and get very little in return. I understand there are exceptions, but still. If being an author is what you want to make a living at, then you must carefully consider how you present yourself, as well as the value of your peers' perception of you and your work.
Self-publishing is not looked down upon as harshly, but darn close. Most other people in the industry do not feel that someone who cannot get published by a traditional publisher as being worthy of publication. I would strongly disagree with this. It is a matter of pride in one's work. Should you decide to self publish, say you only want to see a small group of people have access to your work, then I think this is quite acceptable, provided you take the same care a traditional publishing house would when developing and producing the work. Presentation is key!
eBook publishing is no longer a "fad" or a "thing of the future." It is here, it is viable, and it is widely accepted and universally embraced by some of the most prestigious publishing entities in the world, including nearly all traditional publishing houses. It is not a venue intended to replace traditionally printed books; it is an additional opportunity for readers to consider. There are no shots or vaccinations required for those who embrace eBooks, simply an understanding and appreciation for technology. Even readers are growing increasingly savvy and accepting of electronic books.
POD [Print on Demand]. This, my friend, is considered a dirty word--but only by those who know nothing about it. This is also one of the most misunderstood terms in the industry. Those who do not take the time to understand the opportunities available in the industry put entirely too much focus on this particular venue. POD is simply a type of technology used to print books. When utilizing POD, a publisher or author can submit a book digitally, where it is stored for future use. When an order is placed for a number of copies ranging from one up, the file is then digitally printed, bound, and generally drop-shipped to the purchaser, be it a bookstore or individual. Over the years, this type of printing has been twisted to cover vanity press. Many vanity publishers utilize POD technology to print their books, so they have become known as POD publishers. This is misleading and in many cases wrong as there are vanity presses that do not use POD technology. In the same regard, there are other houses, traditional, if you will, that use POD technology to print, but in no way are vanity presses. POD is simply what is says, PRINT on DEMAND. There are many aspects of POD that people don't understand. They tend to focus on the negative and not so much the positive aspects. The biggest bonus for those using POD technology is the ability to save money on storage fees. The down side is that they pay more per unit than if they were to print in a larger run. However, while the clients of off-set/traditional printers deal with the extreme fluctuation of paper pricing from job to job, POD pricing has remained nearly constant for at least 5 years [this is from my personal experience]. It's all in the terms.
Traditional publishing is considered by some to be the only way to go for an author. This is where you enter into a contract with a large publishing house, generally one based in NY--though this is rapidly changing. For some it has proven to be very lucrative, but many others have been lured into the spotlight, only to find that they could not flourish or even maintain any form of success. There are more one book wonders in the publishing world than one hit wonders in the music scene of the 80s. With hundreds of thousands of books published each year, the competition for the limited number of slots in the traditional market is becoming increasingly more difficult. Established authors are supplying publishers with multiple books per year, writing anthologies, and building readerships that continue to crave their backlist. This decreases the odds for a new author to get into a slot considerably. Impossible? Absolutely not, but definitely a challenge that could have them graying way before their time.
How does this all go back to segregation? With a better understanding of the industry and how it functions, authors can utilize whatever form of publishing is best for them and still find some level of success. Our industry has been overrun with genres, sub-genres, etc. The industry professionals have taken the focus off of the craft and the author's ability to tell a story, and put it all on the "production." Do your kids care what company made "Tickle Me Elmo?" Of course not, only that it giggles.
Publishing is publishing. It matters very little to the readers who publishes your books or how, as long as (1) the book is produced well, (2) the story is engaging and entertaining, and (3) the story is well written. I can guarantee you that if you put your offset book next to a well-produced POD book; they would not be able to tell the difference, unless you told them.
STOP TELLING THEM! The point is, once your book has been beautifully written, exquisitely crafted, and effectively promoted, you don't need to tell the reader anything else. Get the book into their hands and let them focus on the story. That is what they are paying for. Authors need to understand that by putting classifications on their own work they are segregating themselves from the rest of the pack. It does your career no good, in fact it is harmful, not only to you, but to the industry overall.
Stop giving readers a reason to question your value, let them read your work and decide from there. This holds true for booksellers as well. There are many misconceptions in the retail world; POD is among the greatest, sad but true. It doesn't have to be that way. If your publishing house, or you if you self-publish, are serious about succeeding in the industry you have to play the game. It's all about terms. Know what is acceptable in the marketplace and abide by those terms. Pricing, discounts, and above all returnability. These are the three things that booksellers will look for first. How much will their customers have to pay, how much of a discount will the retailer get, and can they be returned if they don't sell. These are all basic, but the easiest way to segregate yourself in this venue is to put your own needs before those of the purchaser. You want to make more money yourself, so you make your 150 page paperback $20.00 with a mere 20% discount, and it cannot be returned. It also will not be sold, at least not in many stores. You have to consider that a similar book from another house may be $9.99 with a 45% discount and can be returned. You do the math. This may be out of your control if you are working with a publisher, but this is part of the research you should do before going into a partnership with anyone else. Know what you are getting into. This is your career, do what is best for you.
That is truly the bottom line. Don't say or do anything negative to set yourself apart from your competition, and there is plenty of that in the publishing industry. Focus on what is positive and important to the advancement and success of your career. Understand what segregation is and how it can harm your potential for success.
This is your career and if you are serious about it, you deserve the very best.
The Heat of the Moment Benefits San Diego Fire Survivors
Evan’s post last week, Do I Believe in Ebooks?: Part One, stimulated some interesting conversation in the blogosphere and I hope that Part Two, his bold recommendation, will encourage all of us to reconsider the potential of ebooks. I will be at the Tools of Change conference today and I hope some of my fellow attendees will share their opinions with me both in person and in the comments section below.
In my last posting I promised to delve into my vision of the evolution of ebooks and in doing so offer a dramatic proposal to make them more mainstream and more widely used. I propose that an ebook license be granted as part of the purchase price to anyone who buys a new print book. Yes, you read correctly; the ebook is free with a new print book purchase. (more…)
Kevin Kelly, who a couple of years ago wrote this provocative article on the future of books, is at it again, this time asking how it is possible to charge for something in a digital world where the cost of duplication and redistribution is almost exactly zero. While books are not the focus of his latest blog post, he could be talking about the publishing industry when he says 'Our wealth sits upon a very large device that copies promiscuously and constantly.'
The problem for content producers and owners, as he describes it, is that 'Once anything that can be copied [eg ebooks] is brought into contact with [the] internet,
it will be copied, and those copies never leave. Even a dog knows you
can't erase something once it's flowed on the internet.' For book publishers, struggling with
issues of ebook pricing, or looking askance at the record business where copy protection is on the way out and the price of recorded music slides inexorably towards free, working out how to create value and encourage people to pay for digital products is becoming an important issue.
But happily Kelly has a possible balm;
'When copies are free, you need to sell things which cannot be copied.'
He suggests 8 'values', including authority, personalization and immediacy which increase value for the user and potentially could encourage payment for a something which might otherwise have a tangible value close to zero. I'm not going to copy his entire article here (though I could simply reproduce a digital copy at no cost to myself at all) - but I do suggest checking it out, it is a most worthwhile read. Perhaps most usefully (and something that really should be obvious) is his suggestion that business models are considered from the point of view not of the content creator, owner or distributor, but from the users perspective; What, he asks, can encourage us to pay for something we can get for free?
Meanwhile, the O'Reilly publishing conference is today starting in New York. At last years' conference Chris Anderson scandalized attending publishers when he said that he was trying to get his new book, Free, priced as close to, er, free, as possible since for him books were an advertisement for his speaking and consultancy business. As every single publisher said, 'that's great for him, but what about us?'. Kevin Kelly, thankfully, provides ample food for thought.
Recently I was on an airplane reading an article in the New York Times when the woman in the seat next to me leaned over and asked what I was holding. I told her it was a Kindle, Amazon’s new ebook reader. I showed her how it worked, explained e-ink, walked her through my collection of titles and subscriptions, and showed how I could look up words in the built in Oxford dictionary. Her response; “That is really cool, but I prefer the feel and smell of a real book.” (more…)
It was very synchronistic that Alvina posted about her Sony reader yesterday as I was listening to this really interesting show on npr last week when the Kindle was released, which got me thinking about reading and technology.
I remember when I was going to art school one of my parent's friends asked me how I felt about the fact that I was going off to study a dying art form (book illustration). I said that even though technology changes the context of art, that doesn't mean it has to die. Photography changed the nature of representational painting (when we could take photographs, painting suddenly evolved to serve a different purpose than capturing reality), but this didn't cause people to stop painting.
I wonder how much that metaphor can be applied though, now that technology like ebook readers are getting closer and closer to the experience of reading a book. So my question is, what is it that is special about reading a printed book?
I can quickly list the tactile things that I love about reading paper books: the weight in my hands, the smell of the ink and the old browned paper. The anticipation that builds as you turn a page, the sound of that page turning, like the flap of a bird's wing.
I can also quickly bring to mind the things I hate about reading on a screen: the haze that comes over your eyes from long stretches of staring at something bright, the lack of design (most web sites use the same, universal type faces for the text). The confusing mish mosh of information and advertisements that, when poorly designed, can be overwhelming.
But apart from these tactile differences, which technology promises to overcome at some point (as the show above points out, it was only 50 years ago that a single computer filled a room), what about reading a printed book would be lost if all goes digital? Ultimately when you are really lost in a story, does it matter in what form you read it? Is there an inherent difference when it comes to children's books in particular?
Because picture books are so much about the art, it seems that the readers out right now are a far cry from catching up to duplicating the experience of a printed page of artwork... so perhaps printed picture books will live a longer life than printed novels. But it does beg the question, what do we value about reading with children, and how will the essence of this change or stay the same as we move away from printed books, if this is the trend?
One of the guests on the show points out that these new devices help us connect with authors more, since we have access to more information about them... blogs for instance open up the writer/reader relationship in a whole new way... more and more it seems necessary that writers actively interact with their audience for their books to be successful. Do ebooks provide ways to further this connection?
If reading a book must increasingly be an interactive, participatory event for the reader, so that they can feel part of the story and the author's world... and if technology makes this easier, does that take some responsibility away from the author/illustrator to accomplish this with the skill of their craft alone?
"I Don't Want To Consume Media That I Can't Interact With
That's the bottom line. When I come into contact with media, I want to do something with it. Tag it, post it, reply to it, comment on it, favorite it, share it, gift it, quote it, whatever...
When are people going to understand that digital media, be it a book, a song, a film, an article, or whatever else, is not passive media. That was analog's gig." Venture Capitalist Fred Wilson reacting to the Amazon Kindle
When I was 6 the school playground was full of clusters of kids crowding round the lucky few who had been given digital watches with games on them. I asked my parents for such a watch for my birthday, but they didn't quite 'get it' and I received a decidedly analogue Timex. My mother says she realized her mistake when I unwrapped the watch and with a cry of anguish, demanded "But what does it do?".
All of which is a roundabout way of saying the Amazon Kindle, which was launched with a great deal of media hoopla last week does lots of things, and doesn't do others, and perhaps we should be asking ourselves what we want books to do and be as we hurtle towards a near-future where all media and all content consists of ones and zeros.
I haven't seen or played with a Kindle yet, but there is plenty of online coverage to be found here, here and elsewhere and it has certainly brought ebooks into the mainstream like nothing before. Undoubtedly the
Kindle, and particularly it's wireless delivery system, is a revolutionary way of putting books in the hands of readers. But, I wonder, is that enough?
It's quite instructive to read some of the comments in the Fred Wilson post above, and also comments on uberblogger Robert Scoble's anti-Kindle rant - clearly there is much debate over whether books have to be social objects. This debate occasionally surfaces here at Penguin Towers where the book lovers among us (and there are one or two) argue the point that to immerse oneself in a book is to isolate oneself from interactivity - books should not necessarily be a shared experience, they say, and there is interaction between reader and text.
Almost lost in the noise about the Kindle was the release of a lengthy report from the National Endowment for the Arts entitled To Read or Not to Read. The conclusions are sobering for anyone in the book business. Basically, Americans are reading less and this is especially true of teens and young adults 'who are reading less often and for shorter amounts of time than other age groups and Americans of previous years'. Now I am not about to claim that this is solely because of Youtube, Xbox and Myspace and other forms of interactive digital media. But perhaps we publishers and book lovers do need to think about whether books need a social life and work out how to satisfy those who want simply to disappear into a story and those who won't consume media that they can't interact with.
Jeremy Ettinghausen, Digital Publisher
PS I know what I want out of an ebook reader - a vast library, accessible anytime from anywhere, a decent screen and the ability to share my discoveries with others and see what my friends are also discovering. Internet access would be pretty necessary, and one of those neat touch screens like the iPhone has. I pretty much want it all, and I actually think we're nearly there (maybe not for this Christmas though). But what do you want from an ebook reader? And, in fact, do you want an ebook reader at all? Leave your comments below...
Disclaimer--I know this is no longer new news but remember I've been away in babyland. So it was news to me. And yes, I'm casting about for Christmas gifts. Various news outlets covered it--Newsweek among them. Here's a Cnet review of Kindle vs. Sony eReader.
I saw in the comments that people were bummed they couldn't check out library books to them. That makes you feel good, huh?
The video makes it look really appealing.
They are backordered now, and for $399 I might think about an iPhone instead. But I heard all kinds of grief about the iPhone because you can't feel the keys. So it is hard to text while you drive, have the phone in your pocket, etc.
But texting while driving. I can't condone it but I can't say I haven't done it, either.
Have you tried the new Amazon Kindle - the hand-size ebook reader? I can't believe it - I got one! Plan to use it extensively this weekend as I downloaded a mystery by a favorite author. Like many others, I'm not crazy about the size page forward and backwards tabs (shown in photo) because it's too easy to leap pages by accident. What I will really enjoy is the EASE of getting new books via
Illustrator and blogger Don Tate asks if Lookybook is a good idea. Lookybook is an online website with the mission to:"create a comfortable place where a curious and devoted audience can search, view, talk about, and buy from a diverse and rapidly expanding collection of picture books. We intend to create the greatest opportunity for authors, illustrators and publishers to reach interested
I find this transition from actual hardcopy books which sold well (100,000 copies) into free ebooks interesting. I think this is a move that could encourage young children to read more–and hopefully to have some good-quality free ebooks (there are some dreadful free “children’s ebooks” out there, that aren’t well written or illustrated).
In this Show: To Disney of Not!
EPCOT USA by Deirdre Flint
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