Scalzi: from pixels to print… to orbit
Wednesday, January 8th, 2003
Patrick Nielsen Hayden, an editor at scifi publisher Tor Books and a blogger, has bought rights to publish a new book by John Scalzi, a consultant and blogger. Patrick read the book, called “Agent to the Stars” on John’s site.
Asked whether this “already published” status could hurt the book’s sales, Patrick comments: “What it seems to me that we’re learning about online free (or cheap) distribution of fiction e-texts is that, sometimes at least, it doesn’t hurt the sale of print editions and may even help it. Data points: Scott Card giving away e-texts on his website. Baen Books’ various promotions and sales of e-texts. The latest David Weber hardcover extravaganza included a CD-ROM bound into the back cover, containing e-texts of all the previous books in the series. I will bet you lunch that this caused the sale of more David Weber backlist print editions than it cost. With fiction, at any rate, people mostly don’t say ‘I don’t need a printed book, I have an e-text.’ I’m sure some do. But mostly they say “I’m intrigued by the taste I got from this e-text, so I’m going to go buy a more-comfortable-to-read printed book now. But you know something? Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe all this is just an artifact of a temporary ‘comfort gap’ between e-texts and printed books. Maybe ten years from now it will be all different. Maybe aspiring writers should be entirely wary of letting their prose onto the net. What I know is that I liked Scalzi’s book and, in the two minutes I spent considering the fact that it had ‘already been published’ on the Web, my basic conclusion was ‘so what.’ Right now, in his case at least, this seems not so much a bug as a feature. Applicability to other cases? Unknown.”