This morning’s New York Times published an opinion piece by Scott Turow, president of the Author’s Guild, calling everyone to task:
- The Supreme Court, for allowing the importation and resale of foreign editions of US books;
- Publishers, for not being more generous to authors, and “limiting e-book royalties to 25 percent of net receipts. That is roughly half of a traditional hardcover royalty.”
- Google, for linking to websites offering pirated versions of his book;
- Publishers again, for not selling ebooks to libraries;
- Amazon, for patenting an ebook resale marketplace;
- Russia, where ”e-publishing is savaged by instantaneous piracy that goes almost completely unpoliced”,
- …and many others.
My favorite line in that story is the following:
“[I] in the country of Tolstoy and Chekhov, few Russians, let alone Westerners, can name a contemporary Russian author whose work regularly affects the national conversation.
Right – because Scott Turow’s novels are all about affecting the national conversation. Scott, have you looked at the national conversation about books? Are we talking Tolstoy and Chekhov?
No, from what I see, most of the national conversation has been about Fifty Shades of Grey.
The Constitution’s framers had it right. Soviet-style repression is not necessary to diminish authors’ output and influence. Just devalue their copyrights.”
Wait, what? Where in there did he talk about devaluing copyright?
Now I’m not saying that I disagree with Mr. Turow on all of these points. But a scattershot op-ed about all the things wrong with the business of publishing and writing doesn’t seem to make any new or major points (let alone suggestions for solutions) – other than that many writers are being nibbled to death by very large and hungry rats.