In which I have opinions on recent publishing news


First, as per James Nicoll and Making Light, Games Workshop, the game company that makes Warhammer 40K, is asserting a trademark claim to the term “Space Marines.” They have the trademark on the term in the gaming world, supposedly, but now that they’ve started publishing ebook tie-ins they’re claiming a common law trademark over the term and filing DMCA notices to make Amazon pull books from the shelves.

Of course, the writer they’re doing this to doesn’t have the money to fight back because deep pockets uber alles. If you’re a fan and customer of the company’s games, maybe you should stop buying from them until they clean up their act, and let them know about it.

Second, yet another article about the slow-motion collapse of Barnes & Noble written for The Atlantic this time. Is there any surprise, really, that our slow-motion recovery from a nasty economic collapse is still taking a toll on out-sized companies? Or that the agency-price collusion lawsuit filed in Amazon’s favor would be another cinderblock in B&N’s rowboat?

I’m not what you’d call a fan of B&N, although I will say that I’m less-likely to be given the side-eye when I shop for SF/F in a big chain than in an indie store. Also, I love seeing huge sections of a store devoted to genres, something you rarely see in indie corner shops.

What would be lost if the last of the big chains go under? We would lose a physical space designed to sell according to readers’ tastes rather than the tastes of the bookstore owner.

Third, Chuck Wendig wants to make today International Don’t Pirate My Book Day. His thoughts about treating art as a thing of value are worthwhile, but here’s where he and I differ: when you read my work without paying for it, it doesn’t hurt my feelings.

It’s pernicious, yes. It’s harmful in the long term. If I am giving something away for free, read for free. Enjoy. If not, I would prefer you pay. However, it doesn’t hurt my feelings because my feelings don’t enter into it.

I’ve talked about this before: In the digital world, price is not constrained by supply and demand. Supply is/can be effectively infinite, so there’s no reason for people to pay extra to procure scarce goods. However, the constraint on price is actually “theft;” the balancing act has to be “How much will users pay for this?” vs “At what price point will people just steal it instead?”

Really this is an inevitable consequence of our advertising/consumer culture, in which you the consumer deserve whatever you want when you want and it ought to be cheap as possible. That’s the culture that vendors of every size, from mom and pop stores to massive corporations, have been pushing for generations. It’s thoroughly internalized in our outlook on the world, and now that machines in our homes allow us to cut the actual producers out of the equation, people do so with gusto.

It’s pernicious, yes. Also, I know people will respond with “Customers are willing to pay if you make it easy for them to do so and keep the price low enough.” Yes, that’s true. It’s also a calculation that occurs solely within the head of the consumer. What’s a fair price? How long should I have to wait for it?

There will always be people who think the smart thing to do is to take what they want and give nothing back, if you get my reference. The real issue becomes the size of that group of consumers and how the culture at large talks about them. In my opinion, the battle against book piracy will not be won in courts or legislative chambers, but in the culture at large; what behavior is normalized? That’s the question.

Fourth and last, I’m going to a reading tonight and my body is in full allergic freak-out mode. I don’t have anything life-threatening going on, but the patchy red marks on my face and (fading now, thankfully) hives on my arms turn me from ugly guy to full AVERT! AVERT! status. Oh well.