6.17.2011

The Richter Scale determines if our instruments are in tune...

If you follow this blog at all, you've probably noticed that I'm just a wee bit unhinged on the topic of e-books. Yeah, that again. It's pretty safe to brand me a Luddite, but I think e-books are going to seriously harm the literary world. I would be happy to be wrong about this, but... I'm not. And since I am at fucking WAR with your goddamned Kindle (or your Nook, or whatever-the-hell -- I just don't want to be accused of "picking on the little guy) I'm going to take some time to explain my case against this infernal "literary" movement again, since a news article vindicating some of what I've been saying just came out.

Here it is:

SPAM IS CLOGGING AMAZON'S KINDLE

Read the whole thing, but here are some pertinent bits, boldfacing mine:


"This is a staggering increase. It's mind-boggling," Greco said. "On the positive side, this is helping an awful lot of people who wrote books and could not get them published in the traditional way through agents."

But Greco listed downsides. One problem is that authors must compete for readers with a lot more books — many of which "probably never should have seen the light of day," he said.


Y'know what? FUCK "helping authors" in this way. Poisoning the pond is not "help" in the long run. I've written several novels, and haven't made any serious attempts at getting them published, but if I do, I want them to go through traditional publishing channels. That means an editor who can reject them if they're not good enough for the public, and an agent who can decide if it's worth shopping around, and a publisher who'll have to put some money behind it and therefore work with me to make it the best it can be. That'll spare me embarrassing myself and will leave me proud that the customer is getting something that's worth their money. Yeah, I love my stories... everybody thinks their babies are beautiful. But that's why we're lousy judges of our own work. I'm an aspiring author, yeah, but I don't want the kind of "help" that degrades the market I'm trying to get into. If my work isn't good enough, I should have it bounce back at me so I'll work harder at my craft until it is good enough.

It shouldn't be easy. Right now you have people who are changing character names in some old Xena: Warrior Princess or Babylon 5 fanfic shit they wrote back in the 90's and dumping it on Kindle as a "book," because Kindle makes it so simple and since nothing is at risk, they have no reason not to throw any-and-everything out there. Hell, you don't even have to write anything to get a book on Kindle now, because the standards are so low. Check this out:


Thousands of digital books, called e-books, are being published through Amazon's self-publishing system each month. Many are not written in the traditional sense.

Instead, they are built using something known as Private Label Rights, or PLR content, which is information that can be bought very cheaply online then reformatted into a digital book.

These e-books are listed for sale — often at 99 cents — alongside more traditional books on Amazon's website, forcing readers to plow through many more titles to find what they want. Aspiring spammers can even buy a DVD box set called Autopilot Kindle Cash that claims to teach people how to publish 10 to 20 new Kindle books a day without writing a word.

This new phenomenon represents the dark side of an online revolution that's turning the traditional publishing industry on its head by giving authors new ways to access readers directly.


That's what you're being asked to buy as a reader, and what you're expected to compete with as a writer. Opportunistic fucks who couldn't give a shit less about the world of letters -- which in my opinion is by far mankind's greatest achievement -- are taking a shit on the writing industry, flooding the literary market with their gack, and wearing readers out. It's hard enough to get people interested in reading with so many less-challenging distractions in the world. Any idea how much harder that's going to be when most of the stuff on the market is absolute garbage? If people read enough of that they'll decide that books just suck and won't bother trying anymore.

In 2010, almost 2.8 million nontraditional books, including e-books, were published in the United States, while just more than 316,000 traditional books came out. That compares with 1.33 million nontraditional books and 302,000 conventional books in 2009, said Albert Greco, a publishing industry expert at Fordham University's business school.


That's about nine unchecked-piece-of-shit "books" on the market for every one legit book. And it's just starting. It's going to get worse. A lot worse. B'lieve dat.

I predicted this a long time ago. I've been saying it for a year or more (Igor will vouch because he's been the very-patient victim of many of my anti-Kindle rants via e-mail) and I said it on this blog three months ago. Here's what I screamed at ya:


Plus, the other whammy: e-publishing is too easy. E-books and print-on-demand have made getting material out there too cheap. Back in the day it cost somebody money to put your stuff out, to print it and market it. Now it costs nothing, so they're eager for any and all material, because whatever it is somebody will surely buy it, and that's a dollar made. If you don't have to back something up with cash, your standards get really low. The firewall is down on literature and the virus of horrible-writing is free to buttrape the literary world. That's going to wear the reading public out. Everybody wants to be "published," so there's going to be so much gack that it's going to be too much of a struggle to wade through it all to find the good writers. Established people will survive it, but new writers who aren't known yet? Your opportunities are going to fade amongst the din. It's gonna be tough to get noticed when there's a billion of you and no editors acting as a floodgate to stop the bad ones from getting through. Look how bad music is now that nobody has to get signed. Enjoy Rebecca Black, ladies and gentlemen... and be sure to buy Friday: The Book. I believe it comes out on Friday, Friday, Friday...

HAVE I MADE MY POINT, MOTHERFUCKERS?! LISTEN TO IT AGAIN! FIFTY MILLION VIEWS in a month that thing had! That is your future! More of that! Forever! I have seen the calendar and the future is aaaaaalllll FRIDAYS! ARRRGGGH! GO FUCKING READ MOON PEOPLE! Thanks to Kindle and Print-on-Demand, Dale Courtney is a published author! William W. Johnstone oughtta send him a goddamn fruitcake from the great beyond for taking the worst-author-ever heat off of him!


The news is finally catching up to what I've been telling ya'll for months now. And I'm not congratulating myself for being any kind of Nostradamus, because you don't have to be... you just have to think. Think about what you're doing, think about the implications of what's going on and where it logically leads.

And that's not all the bad road you're going to have to drive down with this Kindle bullshit, either. As I've also said before on this blog, downloadable books are like downloadable music. It's open to the same file-sharing piracy that has fucked the music industry and is now gnawing away at the DVD business. If you are a big-time published author, type your name or the titles of your books and "bit torrent" into a search engine, and prepare yourself to get pissed, because I can just about guarantee you that your e-books are being made available online for free. And because bit-torrent samples from dozens of different sites, it's not trackable and there's not a whole helluva lot you can do about it, especially if you're a mid-lister who can't afford big-time lawyers.

Think that a little stealing won't hurt you? Think a-fucking-gain.


But those appearances are deceiving. According to one download site’s stats, people are downloading SHADOWED SUMMER at a rate of 800 copies a week. When the book first came out, it topped out at 3000+ downloads a week.

If even HALF of those people who downloaded my book that week had bought it, I would have hit the New York Times Bestseller list.

If the 800+ downloads a week of my book were only HALF converted into sales, I would earn out in one more month. But I’m never going to earn out. And my book is never going to be available in your $region, not for lack of trying. My foreign rights agent is a genius at what she does, and has actively tried to sell it everywhere- UK, AU, China, France, you name it, she tried to sell it there.

SHADOWED SUMMER will only be coming out in Italy, because that’s the only place there’s a market for it.

And let me tell you guys… the sales figures on SHADOWED SUMMER had a seriously detrimental effect on my career. It took me almost two years to sell another book. I very nearly had to change my name and start over. And my second advance? Was exactly the same as the first because sales figures didn’t justify anything more. I don’t blame my publisher. There’s weak demand for my books, according to my sales figures.

Meanwhile, 800 copies of my book (worth about $1200 toward my advance, if everyone paid for a copy,) are being downloaded a week.


That's a lady who's just trying to make an honest and honorable living, writing books to entertain people. It's not an easy job. It takes long, lonely hours of work to write a book. Lots of things are a lot more fun, which is why I've never gotten as serious about it as I wish I could be. But why should anybody put in the work to make something good when it can be stolen from them so easily? In a few years, "author" may be a profession that nobody can make a living doing. Oh, Stephen King and John Grisham will be fine - they're established, they've got an audience. But everyone else is going to be struggling to be heard amongst a din of garbage flooding the market, so you may never see another Stephen King or John Grisham, because they'll be drowned out among the Dale Courtneys and the ten-books-a-day bots. And then, even if they get noticed, their work will be bit-torrented and they can't pay the bills. When music got pirated, bands could at least still make money by playing live. What's an author going to do? All they have to sell is their product.

And authors aren't the only people getting hurt by e-books. It hurts our economy as a whole. Soon you'll hear Democrats and Republicans promising to create jobs, but the sad fact is none of them are going to be able to do much, because the problem with the employment numbers is due to technology eliminating jobs, and that's only going to continue. E-books, alone, are already partially responsible for the decline of book stores and some libraries. When's the last time you saw a record store? Downloads are killing them, they're like drive-ins now. How about video rental places? My small town used to have about a dozen, now there's a Redbox and Netflix and that's it. And the same thing is happening to bookstores. Borders already had problems, and several others are on the brink. That means fewer retail jobs for people. Publishing houses where people worked to make sure the books that hit the market were quality items? Going, going... And what about the factories where they put the books together? More jobs lost. How 'bout the truck drivers who transported and distributed the merchandise? And used book stores? No such thing as a used e-book. Libraries? They may survive as databases, but it'll kill off a lot of jobs. Even the artists who painted book covers are suffering because lazy spam-writers on Kindle don't want to put any cash behind their "product" so you get situations like THIS, which is hilarious, but also a case-in-point of what a shit-quality product you're buying when you purchase an e-book. There are whole blogs now devoted to the cover art on old paperbacks, but who's going to bother making such things for e-book covers?

There are more webs of intrigue to connect, but I sense this may be getting boring. We're not a blog focused on any one thing, but I know mostly people come here wanting to see something reviewed (and, of course, Twitter accounts plugged!), not my paranoid rants, so I'll hold back.

As I've said before, I don't have any problem with an author publishing their work as an e-book. It's a hard enough job already to make a living doing, so any avenue that's open for you, take it. I hope you'll enough respect for the business to go through the proper channels and get an editor and an agent and do all the proper work to turn out a quality product that's worthy of the great tradition you're lucky enough to be a part of, with Dickens and Welty and King and Spillane and London and Hemmingway and Steinbeck and Poe and Doyle and all the others who did it the right way. But, I don't blame you for e-publishing. I'll never be reading your work until there's a version that's printed on paper, but do what you gotta do; it's a tough profession and I respect what you do above all other professions; do what you gotta do so you can keep doing it.

But if you're thinking of buying a Kindle or a Nook or whatever, I ask you to please think again. Don't be a part of this. Pitch a wrench in that bitch, and buy your favorite author's works on paper. Even if it costs a little more, it's worth it. Every dollar you spend is a vote for the kind of world you want to live in... and if you love writing, this e-shit isn't building any kind of world you're gonna like. Don't tear down quality-control for the sake of expediency. After all, your computer would probably run faster if you didn't have virus protection... but it wouldn't run long.

And for my naive friends out there who are in love with their new toy and think they've got a library in their pocket, if you really believe you'll still be able to read the e-book you just bought in ten years, I've got a five-inch floppy of Space Invaders you can play if you can find the hardware to read it and the software platform needed to run it. You gettin' me? The only sure thing in the world of electronics is hardware/software/platform/format changes. Your "library" has an expiration date that's a lot shorter than you think. Don't believe me? Try playing that Duke Nukem or Doom disc you bought back in '98 on a computer now. Good luck.

And I didn't even say any crazy stuff about EMP's and the Library of Alexandria, because I didn't want to come across as too over the top. ;)

Okay, enough of that. Here's a few CD reviews just so you might not be completely disappointed by this week's offering. Thanks for indulging me, it's something I'm a little obsessed about.

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Venom
- Possessed. (1985)
Possessed was the first Venom album I encountered, back in the days of vinyl, and it blew me away and made me a Venom fanatic, scarfing up everything else by them I could find and wearing so many tee-shirts it was silly. (I've even still got a homemade one an ex-girlfriend painted me). I listened to the hell out of it, but then for some reason I never re-bought it on CD, so I've been away from this album for a decade or so. Last month I got a hankering to hear "Satanachist" again, so I bought the CD. Maybe it's because damn near everything that's sold as "metal" now is overproduced, flowery, jazzy exercises in boring, repetitive wank, but this really sounded good all over again. The production's fer-shit and the playing is gloriously sloppy and the Satanic personas are silly as always, but it's Venom goddamnit! It opens with "Powerdrive," which is just crazy. That bass is just slammin'. With un-muddied production, this would be dangerous.



"C'mon, let's get some hell goin' down here!
Aaaarrrrgh!
Faster, faster!
Hotter than an atom bomb, holocaust so vast
Devastation is our home, light ain't all that fast
Vesuvius erupts, igniting all in reach
Leaving all in Purgatory 'til time decides to teach
Candlelight the new volcano, power shines the moon
Yeearrgh!
Powerdrive, powerdrive, powerdrive!
Whooooah!
C'mon, wind 'em up!
Wilder than a charging beast, our methods set on death
Elements recharge our songs, not time to catch your breath
The Richter Scale determines if our instruments in tune
Candlelight the new volcano, power shines the moon!"


That's Venom. That's metal, baby.

The CD varies speeds, with mid-paced crushers like "Flytrap" or "Hellchild," the sludgy Satan-soaked title track ("Come listen to me and I'll tell you/ Things that will sicken your mind/ I drink the vomit of the priest/ Make love to the dying whore/ I have the blood of the beast/ And I hold the keys to death's door/ Through many a tortured night prevail/ Thy exorcisms shall but fail..."), and (as Cronos called them) "speedy jobs" like "Voyeur" and "Burn This Place To the Ground" ("We ain't here to entertain you/ We're here to make you scream/ When you waken up tonight you'll think it was a dream"). And, of course, the defiant anthem, "Too Loud (For The Crowd)." The CD comes complete with several bonus tracks, like the bludgeoning "Warhead," the chaotic "F.O.A.D." (which is like psychedelic Venom!), and a live slaughterhouse version of "Witching Hour." Not Venom's best, but essential formative black metal and true to the Venom concept, as stated by Cronos - "Venom is a brick. You throw it over here, BAM, there's Venom!" Yeah, they come across as a real-life Spinal Tap, but they'll kick your ass.





Stevie Stiletto
- My Life Is Great DVD (C, 2009)
Years ago I found an American Asshole CD in a used bookstore in Pensacola, Florida, and since it was only a dollar and looked punk-rock I gambled on it. It's now one of my favorite punk albums. Since hardly anyone's heard of this band, I was psyched when I saw a DVD had come out about the band. And, amazingly, it's two hours long, with bonus live footage, and comes with a CD of some greatest hits. Definitely worth your money! It covers the Florida punk band from their early early days in the 80's, and their frontman, who's been living on borrowed time for years now. He was given three days to live back in 2005 due to his alcohol-destroyed liver (he was pissing out chunks of it!) and cancer that had spread through his body from rampant drug use... but, to my knowledge, he's still alive and kicking. The band played widely and went through various lineup changes but remained unjustifiably obscure. They wrote some really amazing music and generated some insane road stories, which you'll hear plenty of on this DVD. Even members who got kicked out still have affection for the band, and Stevie, although he was apparently quite the crazy, unmanageable monster at times. This is punk rock that you should know about.

(This song goes through my head every day when I'm getting jabbered at by a co-worker)










An uncharacteristically pretty song... and damn catchy.


Ghost - Opus Eponymous CD 2011
Wow, this is a weird one. This description isn't original to me, but it's the most accurate one I've heard so I'm ganking it -- Mercyful Fate meets Judas Priest. Nobody's sure who this band is (although rumors has is that members of In Solitude are involved) because they wear hooded robes, except the singer, who dresses like a skeleton pope! The lyrics are praises to all things Satanic, and even though they're played very straight, somehow they come across as tongue-in-cheek. The vocals are very clean (even gentle, and never King-Diamond-squeally) and so is the music, really. Things never get all that heavy, but somehow it always fucking ROCKS, even when things verge on prettiness. My favorite track is "Ritual" and if you don't like this one, you're probably not going to like the album.



Nothing is overly complicated, but the songs are driving and catchy as hell and it's different. Loving both Mercyful Fate and Blue Oyster Cult, this is perfect stuff for me, and I think it'll grow on anybody who gives it a chance. And I have to love any band who pays homage to my cousin, Elisabeth Bathory...






I've never heard this before, but I love it... Ghost covers the Beatles!


I say pick this one up right now...

2 comments:

  1. "And I didn't even say any crazy stuff about EMP's and the Library of Alexandria"...

    Are you tryin' to tell me that the Library of Alexandria was destroyed by an EMP?!? That's just crazy!

    B/>

    ReplyDelete