Tag: ebooks

A few upcoming publications, and a reminder

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A few cool news: first, I’ve put together an ebook sampler for my fiction. The idea isn’t to do a short story collection (or even to make money!), but simply to allow people to discover my stuff by browsing through their Kindles and other reading devices. The thing is called Scattered Among Strange Worlds, and regroups my Clarkesworld Chinese/Vietnamese diaspora in space story “Scattered Across the River of Heaven” and my IGMS apocalyptic mermaid tale “Exodus Tides”. Due to exclusivities, etc., it will be available end of July (or possibly a bit later if I have to fight to upload a book on amazon…). Price should be the lowest I’m allowed to set, so 99 cents?

The cover and ebook design is by the ultra amazing Patrick Samphire, who recently launched his own ebook cover and ebook design business over at 50secondsnorth. He blogs about the design and the choices he had to make here, on his blog.

Isn’t it fabulous? Many thanks to Patrick, who’s got a very sharp eye for what works for books covers, and does absolutely freaking gorgeous stuff (and his rates are pretty darn affordable, too). You know you want an ebook this summer 😀

Also, my Chinese-y story “Under Heaven” will be available in Electric Velocipede issue 24, in which I share a TOC with Ken Liu (then again, who doesn’t share a TOC with the ever-prolific Ken? 🙂 ) and Ann Leckie. You can find the full list of stories here, and their publication date should be available soon.

Finally, I’ve sold my short story “Ship’s Brother”, set in the Xuya continuity, to Interzone for their next or after-next issue. Featuring a ship named after a fairytale character (Mị Nương, aka The Fisherman’s Song. If you’re read the fairytale, you’ll know why). Many thanks to Chris Kastensmidt and the ever-awesome Rochita Loenen-Ruiz for reading it and offering very cogent suggestions!

Snippet:

You never liked your sister.

I know you tried your best; that you would stay awake at night thinking on filial piety and family duty; praying to your ancestors and the bodhisattva Quan Am to find strength; but that it would always come back to that core of dark thoughts within you, that fundamental fright you carried with you like a yin shadow in your heart.

I know, of course, where it started. I took you to the ship–because I had no choice, because Khi Phach was away on some merchant trip to the Twenty-Third Planet–because you were a quiet and well-behaved son, and the birth-master would have attendants to take care of you. You had just turned eight–had stayed up all night for Tet, and shaken your head at your uncles’ red envelopes, telling me you were no longer a child and didn’t need money for toys and sweets.

In other news, packing for Romania in a bit of a panic. More later, but a small reminder you can find me in Bucharest Friday 17:00, at the Calderon Cultural Center, 39, Jean-Louis Calderon Street, sector 2, for the Society of Romanian Science Fiction’s ProspectArt meeting. I’ll be interviewed by the tireless Cristian Tamas, and will read from “Immersion”, a full two weeks before it’s published in Clarkesworld!

Linky linky

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-Chimadanda Adchie on “The Danger of a Single Story”. I’d been linked to this before, but never actually read it. It’s ultra-interesting, fascinatingly argued; and touches on subjects like the vulnerability of people (esp. children) to the stories they consume, and the skewed balance of power in the depiction of cultures.
-Charles Stross on “DRM and ebooks”. Lots of stuff to chew on.
-Michael Moorcock’s “Starship Stormtroopers” on Reactionary SF. I don’t agree with everything, and I, uh, admit to never reading Heinlein, but it’s still food for thought. Somewhat depressing that it dates back from the late 70ies, though… (among things I am ambivalent on: the simplistic equation of being for or against the Vietnam War with being for or against US imperialism. US imperialism in Vietnam dates *way* back before the war, and the question of their involvement was a freaking tangle by the time it all blew up. Then again, I suspect a lot of people in the US at the time had no idea what was going on or why).
-The always wonderful Rochita Loenen-Ruiz has an essay on “Decolonizing as an SF Writer” over at Kate Elliott’s blog (and also at The Future Fire):

During the American occupation, the passing on of the oral tradition was suppressed as the native priests and their rituals were demonized not only by the white colonizer but also by the white missionaries who followed in their wake. This meant that the true traditions and the original culture were slowly overlaid with the glaze of white culture and white belief.

Add all this up and it is no wonder that the psyche and the culture of the Filipino is so scarred and wounded to the point where we see the white and the west as being superior to us in all things.

Reading the history of conquest and colonization is a traumatic experience for the colonized. The Philippines went through not one, but two colonizers. I wonder how many colonizers other countries had to endure.

From reading these histories, it becomes clear to me that the erasure and subjugation of existing indigenous narratives were prioritized as these were viewed as being rival to the colonizing power.

Well worth reading, discussing and sharing.

Publishing and non-Anglo countries

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And a thematic news roundup of publishing in non-Western-Anglo countries:

-Charles Tan on “How Publishing Favours the West”. All very true, sadly, and once again a case of the US (and associated UK/Canada/Aus/NZ, who benefit by virtue of language and cultural proximity, even if they’re not the same) oozing into the local markets, feeding tremendous demand but not adapt local prices to said demand (said it before, will say it again: $8.00 does NOT buy you the same thing abroad. In Vietnam, it’s one-fifth of the average monthly salary). And how Amazon and Apple are pretty much doing the same with ebooks. [1]

-K.S. Augustin on her experience with Kindle publishing in a non-Amazon country. It’s horrendous, in case you had doubts: Amazon encourages local publishers to use Kindle, but won’t even grant them access to the software for formatting books and checking out what they look like (I think preventing the publisher from checking out a preview of their own Kindle book has got to be a new low…)

-And apparently, the hot topic of the Frankfurt Book Fair is publishers parcelling out digital English rights in non-Western-Anglophone countries and selling them one by one, presumably to local publishers. That’s right: if all goes according to plan, and you want an English-language ebook in France/Spain/Vietnam, you’ll have to wait for a French/Spanish/Vietnamese editor to buy the English-language rights in France/Spain/Vietnam (yes, I know. Who in their right mind is going to pay more than a pittance for this, especially for books that aren’t bestsellers). Ain’t that awesome.

This is a particular flavour of insane (and I still think ebooks should be sold by language, not territory. Yeah, sure, authors and publishers are going to be losing out a bit, but it’s a fairer deal, and it doesn’t leave us in non-Anglo countries feeling like second-class citizens).

Also, this is all leaving me very puzzled, because I think any media business strategy today has got to be weighed against the cost of the piracy option, whether it’s for ebooks or for movies. We can argue all we want about how morally incorrect piracy is, but the fact remains: it’s available, and it’s relatively easy, and its only drawbacks are non-guaranteed quality, and possible legal prosecution (which means downloading a pirate ebook or movie is not quite free: there’s an equivalent cost, defined as the sales value when a given buyer will prefer a legit option to downloading the pirate copy).

But if you have a model in which you keep feeding demand (as Hollywood does, by exporting movies everywhere and making them the baseline of cinema; as the Big Six publishers do in a lesser measure) but not making stuff available at reasonable prices, or not making stuff available at all, you’re basically encouraging people to turn to piracy (and sure, you can say you’ll stomp on pirates, but let’s face it: stopping all piracy dead in its tracks is far from easy). And you can complain pirates are taking away all your business, but for me you’re bearing a share of responsibility because of the demand, prices and availability policy you set (not all the responsibility, to be sure, but still…).
What I’m seeing of the situation so far sounds like another music industry train wreck waiting to happen. It seems to me that we’re going to need a new legal model and new copyright laws to deal with the digital age; but so far this hasn’t exactly been happening.

An addendum on book and DVD prices: I can’t remember where the stat comes from (it was a scholarly report on piracy in various countries, but I can’t find the link for the life of me), but a DVD in India is sold for an equivalent value of $700, if we bring the price in rupees back to US-cost-of-living dollars. Imagine that you kept seeing ads and trailers for the new Batman movie, that people kept talking about it at work, kept insisting that if you hadn’t seen it, you were really behind the times and totally uncool; but that the act of seeing it cost you $700. No wonder there’s a whole generation in Asia growing up not knowing what a legit DVD or book is… [2][3]

Why, yes, I’m feeling cheerful and optimistic about the future of the ebook market today…

(and I suspect not everyone will agree with me RE copyright laws, piracy and ebooks. Feel free to comment/argue/refute in the comments. This is very much something I would love to hear discussion on).


[1] I know, it’s a complicated problem from a business point of view, especially with the permeability of boundaries: it was fine to set prices in the US for the US; and then to deal almost on a case-by-case basis on export problems, but today the market and the demand have gone global (and there are people taking advantage of this–see arbitrage in financial markets).
[2] There are pirate physical books, too. If you’ve ever gone to Asia (well, at least India and Vietnam. I haven’t tried elsewhere), you’ll find itinerant book peddlers selling bound books basically made of photocopies. It’s a sobering experience when you dwell on why they’re here at all.
[3] And yes, I agree that it’s not legal, and probably not ethical either. But the rise of piracy has all too clearly demonstrated that people do not have a natural moral fiber.

Ebook piracy

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There has been a lot of debate on the internet about the ethics of ebook piracy, a lot of which boiled down to “piracy is stealing”. I’m not saying I disagree with that, but…

Well, you should check out this links roundup from troisroyaumes over on dreamwidth, which is a little more measured. Specifically, it focuses on problematic issues with intellectual property rights seen the Western way. The part that especially resonates with me, book-wise (but there’s more here than that), was people discussing the availability of books (whether physical or electronic) in developing countries, and their price–which is a not-insignificant part of the problem. I’ve always thought that asking people to pay US prices for books or DVDs was ridiculous: take Vietnam, where the average salary is 50$. With that, if you’re lucky, you can buy maybe two English hardbacks? (and I’m being nice here, because I’m assuming said hardbacks aren’t subject to import duties). As qian points out, in Malaysia, an imported English book can cost 7-8 times the price of a meal, and getting it is a terrible hassle. I can see why it would give her the unpleasant feeling that “in almost every case, the author is not even contemplating that somebody like you will be reading it. You quite simply do not exist in their world.”

I’m already getting that impression of being ignored from all those ebook piracy posts–and I live in a developed country with high salaries, reasonable access to English-language books (amazon, book depository, few or no import taxes). I can imagine how much freaking worse it would be for people in developing countries.

ETA: fantasyecho has a further links roundup–some overlaps, but there are a few not in the original DW post. Like the earlier one–don’t agree with anything, but a lot of points are definitely worth taking into account.


Also, one of those linked posts has a very valid point, which is that “illegal” is not a synonym for “immoral”. A lot of those blog posts about piracy don’t make a clear distinction between those two words. “illegal” is what the state thinks is bad. “immoral” is what you think is bad according to personal ethics–and if it’s exactly the same as “illegal” for you, no more, no less, you’re demonstrating a scary amount of trust in your government…

Ebooks: wise words of the day

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My Dad, discussing his PR-505 e-reader (which he used to love): “You know, I hardly use it anymore, because either it’s impossible to buy the books I want (in English), or because they’re so stupidly expensive. I wanted to buy a Marc Lévy book online, but they sold it for the same price as the hardback–when the paperback was available for about a third of that price.”

Yeah. You and me both. I continue to have hopes that the system is going to sort itself out, but the current trend is geared towards worse rather than better (georestrictions locking us French out of the English booksellers, high prices due to so-called “delivery costs” from the US–seriously, delivery costs of e-things?)

*sigh*

Ebook dilemma

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So, if I have the choice between:
-item 1: ebook for the Kindle, 7 euros. DRM-protected, MOBI format , found only after extensive search (amazon turned out to be the only seller I’ve found which would take my French money for this particular ebook). Can be lent to friends exactly once in the entire lifetime of the book. And, of course, my ebook reader doesn’t read MOBI, so we’re looking at cracking the DRM on my own ebook and converting it to epub via Calibre, probably losing a lot in the process (and, er, not exactly doing legal things, even though I wouldn’t be distributing the de-DRMed ebook).

-item 2: physical book. 5.50 euros including P&P. Fully owned by yours truly, lendable to whom I feel like it, as many times as possible. Can be dropped in the bath, lost in transit, etc.

What on earth makes you think I’m going to pick item 1 over item 2, exactly?

(yes, I know, item 1 takes up less space. But also can be lost when my hard disk crashes)

In other, less ranty news, I am now a proud subscriber to the digital edition of Locus, and it rocks. No more waiting a full month to get it, no more lost issues–and way cheaper than the international subscription for something I don’t keep around anyway (and before you ask, it comes in epub format, without DRM).

Linky linky

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-Paul Cornell on ebooks: some terrific points (the one on reader vs. publisher expectations on hardbacks was one of those “oh, of course” moments). Well worth a read. And, if you read this blog, you should know I’m cheering on for point 14, and adding a few choice words specific to those poor, benighted people like me who want to read in one language different from the authorised one in their region. At least with DVDs you get a choice of subtitles. And dear God, point 16–yes. Definitely point 16. If I have to pay for an ebook, I want a proper table of content–at the very least.
-Courtesy of Roberto Quaglia (and Ian Watson, who was doing the filming at the time), the video of last year’s Eastercon panel on “Writing in English as a Foreign Language” (with Roberto, Gérard Kraus, Anna Ferruglio Dal Dan, and Claude Lalumière, who actually was with me on the exact same panel at the 2008 worldcon–except it was in French 🙂 )
-And now for something lighter (via Lee Harris and Mark Charan Newton): automatic Daily Mail headline generator. As Lee says, not quite 100% accurate, but still scarily on the mark.

Off to wrap the last Christmas present now. See you later 🙂

Ebooks part 2

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Ok, so apparently the reason [1] I can buy physical books from, say, waterstones.co.uk, and not ebooks is because, when I buy physical books, the place of sales is Waterstone’s servers (ie in the UK), and they then ship it to me (incurring import taxes and whatnot). When I buy ebooks, the place of purchase is my computer–which is firmly in France, where Waterstone’s isn’t licensed to sell English books per their agreement with the publishers. But of course, no one but the UK resellers are authorised to sell UK editions…

*goes bang head against wall*

Why am I suddenly reminded of Kafka here?


[1]I have no idea whether it’s true, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

A rant on ebooks and geo-restrictions

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To whom it may concern:

I have an ebook reader (the bebook mini), and I find it comfortable and convenient. I embrace the digital revolution, and would gladly buy most of my books in eformat and save myself bookshelf space.

Except…

Have I mentioned the term “geo-restrictions” yet? The little thing that means places like WHSmith, Waterstone, the Sony Store or Amazon won’t sell me anything but their “authorised” catalog (ie, appropriate to the country I’m in)?

The official argument is something like “wait for the publisher to release the book in your country”. Well, guess what. My country is France. The ebook I want is in English (or Spanish. Or Vietnamese. Or whatever). Chances of the ebook being released in my country in that language? Close to nil, the market is too small for most SF/F books.

So, I have two choices. I can fake a US/UK IP address and a US/UK credit card to buy where I want; or I can pirate the book. None of them are really legal; and one of them involves way too much hassle for what should be a legit purchase (while actually leaving me still open to prosecution for fraud). I’ll leave you to contemplate what I’m most likely to do on the day I lose patience with the system…

In the meantime, I buy legit books at Baen’s webscriptions; I admire my publisher at Angry Robot, who sell DRM-free worldwide books for a reasonable price.

PS: and yes, as a writer, I know it’s a rights problem. But, quite frankly, as a customer, I still think it borders on the insane. Cracking down on people who buy English books from non-English countries is tantamount to pushing people into the arms of pirates, as far as I’m concerned.
PPS: if there’s a source of non-geo-restricted legit SF/F books I’ve missed, I’d be glad to be pointed in the right direction.

Today’s rant

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Well, two rants, actually. It’s been a bemusing kind of day.

Resolutely failed to buy the Lymond chronicles in ebook format (I have the paper editions but wanted to have them handy for, say, holidays). However, my purse balked at paying ten freaking pounds per book for something I essentially already own in another format. (it occurred to me that for the price of three ebooks, I can buy a 16GB card, too. No comments necessary).

And if I see one more American remake of a successful other-language movie, under the pretext that Americans are too bemused to handle dubs or (Heaven forbid) subtitles, I’ll hit something. Hard, and with a spiked iron gauntlet. (this brought to you courtesy of Let Me In and The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo).