Table of Contents
- Penny Ante: The UK’s Rock-Bottom Ebook Pricing
- Kindle Fire: A Brighter Flame Than We Thought?
- More Amazonia: Bercovici’s Bid To Fix the Reviews
- Craft: One in Favor of the Publishers
- Craft: Dismissing the Zombies
- Craft: How Not To Get an Agent or Publisher
- Ashlock Added to TOC’s Author (R)evolution Day
- Conferences? What Conferences?
- Last Gas: Long Live the Gatekeepers
Penny Ante: The UK’s Rock-Bottom Ebook Pricing
“Obviously I would support individual price promotions that boost an author’s readership, but if we just go to rock bottom, it is not supportable. At the moment retailers take the hit, but if this becomes the price of ebooks they won’t continue to, and then it is authors who will suffer.”
That’s Ursula Mackenzie, president of the UK’s Publishers Association. She’s quoted by The Bookseller’s Joshua Farrington and Lisa Campbell in their story, Fears for long-term over 20p ebooks.
And what’s playing out here is a darkening chapter in the ebook pricing saga that means, as The Bookseller Editor Philip Jones writes, “20p has already become the new £1.”
In his deftly headlined blog post Penny dreadful, he writes:
The promotion was started by Sony last summer, and went largely unnoticed until Amazon began to price-match. Then it was seen as something of a flash in the pan, affecting a small number of titles from a small number of medium-sized publishers. Even now, some mischaracterise it as an Amazon push, while others downplay its impact.
Jones and his staff, however, are working to alert the community to the fact that it may be getting more than its money’s worth in trouble on this open-ended “promotion” driven by Sony.
Jones, emphasis mine:
One problem has been trying to ascertain the size of the 20p footprint. But the more numbers we see concerning the ebook market, the bigger the problem appears to be. My working estimate is that the 20p promotion might now account for 15% of all ebooks sold [in the UK] — roughly as big as the self-publishing market (the consequences of which remain much discussed).
And in his post at The FutureBook, The 20p ebook is starting to reshape the ebook market, Jones outlines how serious the effects of this bargain-basement pricing could be, again with my emphasis:
At the moment the top five ebooks selling in the UK via the Kindle store are priced at 20p. Canongate says that Life of Pi is racking up sales of 10,000 every day, meaning that even at a conservative measure of the other titles’ relative performances, we might be talking about 10% of the overall ebook market that is books selling at 20p.
Ironically — and about what in publishing these days can we not say “ironically?” — Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent’s lead on the industry! the industry! has just looked at the world of periodicals and their own pricing saga in What digital magazines can learn from ebook publishers.
Owen’s comparative overview finds “a number of publishers charging more for tablet editions than print,” and includes a section on promotional pricing that could make even 20p look better than nothing:
The good news for magazine publishers is that, with their digital revolution in the early stages, they can learn from those who came before them. The bad news is that many magazines are more threatened by free online content than most books are.
She rightly cites the experiences of many self-published authors:
Countless self-published authors have found that offering their books at initially very low prices is a great way to gain new readers: When the barrier to entry is low, readers are more likely to take a chance on an unknown name.
While Owen concedes, “This strategy is working less well as the ebook revolution progresses” — noting that “there’s a sea of self-published books out there — she’s nevertheless talking about a limited-time strategy.”
And what has so many red flags flying on the Sony 20p pricing scheme — rightly described by Jones as “one of the more curious price strategies, even for a sector that is no stranger to selling its most desirable products at a loss” — is twofold:
- These are best-sellers moving at these prices; and
- For something called a “promotion,” the 20p pricing approach applied by Sony and matched by Amazon shows no signs of ending.
Farrington and Campbell quote Tim Godfray, chief of the UK’s Booksellers Association:
“Obviously I would support individual price promotions that boost an author’s readership, but if we just go to rock bottom, it is not supportable. At the moment retailers take the hit, but if this becomes the price of ebooks they won’t continue to, and then it is authors who will suffer.”
And this could be one of the very real consequences of the long-running so-called 20p “promotion” that seems to have no end.
The Half-Life of Hannah author Nick Alexander calls the 20p phenomenon “a real noose around everyone’s neck,” telling The Bookseller about his experience in pricing the book at Amazon:
“The Top 10 is totally dominated by 20p ebooks [as Amazon’s algorithms match Sony’s 20p pricing — remember, this is not instigated by Amazon]. With a couple of exceptions, the only chance to get there is to put a book at that price. It means I only get 10p for each book, when my books would usually be priced higher and I could receive more.”
Ten pence for each book.
Just take that in for a moment. In US currency? Fifteen cents. The author is making 10p (15 cents) per copy.
In the States, Digital Book World’s latest look at what it estimates to be 25 best-selling ebooks currently sees the average pricing to be around $8.30. That weekly totting-up of where things stand may offer, more than anything, a look at just how drastically a low-ball price can affect the overall averages.
For example, in the week ending January 19, the DBW Top 25 list’s upper-end books included three going for $12.99 and one (Brad Meltzer’s new The Fifth Assassin) going for $12.74.
Two ebooks at $1.99, however, and a rock-bottom entry at 99 cents — Addison Moore’s shirtless-men-kissing-beautiful-women erotic romance, Someone to Love, of course — so forcefully lowered the overall pricing of the group that it’s hard to know whether we’re learning anything from such gauges.
In London, Faber & Faber chief Stephen Page appears sanguine on the matter, telling The Bookseller:
“Aggressive short-term pricing is one thing, but in the long term most ebooks are priced sensibly. We think some very sensible pricing is emerging. There’s a recognition that digital is different to physical, but people realise that doesn’t always mean digital is lots cheaper‚ the intrinsic value is in the copyright.”
It might be interesting to ask readers what they think of the value of a copyright, actually. I wonder how many of them have ever considered a copyright at all, let alone its value, in relation to books they read.
It certainly is interesting to read The Bookseller report that “Faber has seen several of its titles sold at 20p and its ebook sales grew by 260 percent by value in 2012, well ahead of averages across the industry.”
Asked if Faber might consider withdrawing its titles from Sony’s 20p deal, Faber and Page declined to comment.
And, as Jones concludes:
If this persists, in 2013 as the rate of volume growth accelerates, the rate of value growth will continue to diminish. The consumer will be paying less for more. Significantly less, for significantly more, in fact.
Hey, I have a new avatar photo and it’s ANOTHER WOMBAT. Yes, I just go from Wombat to Wombat. WOMBATS FOREVER.
— Ginger Clark (@Ginger_Clark) January 25, 2013
Kindle Fire: A Brighter Flame Than We Thought?
This turns the Kindle Fire into a potentially lucrative product for Amazon, even though most believe it sells the Kindle Fire products near cost, if not below it. Even better: The combination of decreasing hardware prices over time and a rise in content sales — think apps, movies, books, music — will help the product line even more.
In Here’s how much in content sales turn Kindle Fire into a money maker at GigaOM, Kevin C. Tofel reports on estimates from an ABI Research senior analyst, Aapo Markkanen.
How much in content sales does it take for Amazon to earn a 20 percent profit margin on its Kindle Fire hardware? About $10 per month, which generates $3 once Amazon takes its 30 percent cut.
Tofel quotes Markkanen’s observations on “a certain level of ‘innovation plateauing’ in mobile hardward taking place over the next five years” indicating that Amazon’s “future devices are likely to require less cross-subsidy than the ones we’ve seen so far.” Writes Tofel:
Markkanen may not have the exact figure for content profits required, but you can bet Amazon does. And this may be why the company wanted to retain control over mobile app pricing when it launched its alternative Appstore. By understanding consumer preferences perhaps better than any other online retailer, Amazon knows the right pricing “mix” for content sales to make money off hardware sales.
Forget good literature; completed literature is the writer’s greatest conquest. #writetip — K.M. Weiland (@KMWeiland) January 28, 2013
More Amazonia: Bercovici’s Bid To Fix the Reviews
Reviewers of reviews. Gosh, I don’t know.
[Amazon] already runs an invitation-only program for trusted product reviewers, Amazon Vine, whose members receive free products in exchange for a commitment to review 80% or more of them. Expanding Vine to include review reviewers would be relatively simple and might go a long way toward improving the quality of user-generated criticism on the site.
In How Amazon Should Fix Its Reviews Problem at Forbes, Jeff Bercovici — whose prono is “Bur-KOH-vuh-see,” for your edification — gets to the problem succinctly: Amazon has trust issues. It relies on its users to review its products, and those users rely on each other’s reviews in making their purchasing decisions, especially when it comes to books. Yet to say that user-generated reviews on Amazon (and around the Web in general) are an untrustworthy measure of quality is a massive understatement.
Bercovici acknowledges that Amazon has been using an algorithmic approach to culling questionable reviews:
You might think this is a problem that could be addressed with software, and you’d be right. Algorithms that search for fake reviews by analyzing linguistic patterns or the distribution of ratings have shown high success rates.
But he also points out that the spirit of the customer review suffers in such a context:
Trusting algorithms alone to vet reviews would undermine the sense of community that induces the reviewers in Amazon’s Hall of Fame to contribute hundreds or thousands…to the site. There needs to be a human element as well, but one that can’t be gamed by virtual mobs like Michael Jackson’s Rapid Response Team.
That last reference is to the case we mentioned last week here in Ether for Authors, per David Streitfeld’s report about fans of Jackson piling on with negative reviews for a biography they don’t like of the late star.
Looking down on Manhattan instagr.am/p/U6zf-Ul3Nd/ — Neal Mann (@fieldproducer) January 25, 2013
What Bercovici is suggesting is “some kind of Wikipedia-like system of trusted volunteer administrators, selected from the ranks of the most “helpful” reviewers? They could work hand-in-glove with a screening algorithm, reviewing comments deemed spammy, suspending serial offenders, etc.” It’s an interesting concept, particularly in the light of his explanation of how Forbes’ comments-approval system works. But, then, while certainly leveraging the feeling of community with its consumer-speaks reviews, Seattle hasn’t necessarily asked for suggestions. Related reading: See our Last Gas segment today on Liz Castro’s experiences and thoughts as they pertain to Amazon, its reviews, and its search. Back to Table of Contents
See crazy headline. Realize it’s from Forbes. Ha ha ha ha ha. Go about my day. — Alex Wilhelm (@alex) January 25, 2013
Craft: One in Favor of the Publishers
Penguin has been great about sending me style sheets for each book (hoping, of course, that I will use them to eliminate errors and inconsistencies from book to book in a series.)
The Three Faces of Elizabeth S. Craig are named Elizabeth Spann Craig, Elizabeth Craig, and Riley Adams. Yes, she writes under three names, something she has discussed at length in Considerations When Choosing Our Author Name. As someone who can barely remember his one name many days of the week, I find my career passing before my eyes at the thought. Craig, however, thrives this way, turning out cozy mysteries in several series. And here, in Time Saving Tip When Writing Series, she reveals something that I think has to be an example of a service a traditional publisher can supply that might be a lot harder to come by in a self-publishing context.
The style sheets are emailed in a separate attachment from my edits, and sometimes include the email address of the copyeditor on them, in case I want to make changes to the document.
She gives us an instance of how the information on a style sheet may come to her, for example, listing people in one of her series:
- Ash Downey 22
- Beatrice Coleman (60s, silvery ash-blond hair) 9
- Jo Paxton (black hair with white streaks, small, stout) 10
- Miss Sissy (old, cadaverous) 18
The sheets lists actual style: serial comma use, treatment of unusual contractions, how to handle direct thoughts in the book, word choice, etc. It always amuses me when Penguin adds the word y’all’s to the style sheets they send to me. 🙂
When Craig tried making such style sheets, herself, to use in her self-published work (she’s a hybrid author, publishing both traditionally and self-publishing), she writes, “I found that style sheet creation after finishing the first draft was a time-consuming process.” She’s having better luck, she says, creating a style sheet as she writes a given manuscript, rather than waiting until a draft is done. And she recommends doing this for standalone books, as well. I can attest to the wisdom of this, even for a one-off long-form piece. It can be an invaluable assist not to have to keep searching back through a manuscript for details you once debated and now can’t fully remember. Craig:
The style sheet helps while you’re writing the book — by offering a succinct reference that you can click over to as you write the first draft. The style sheet also helps with edits and consistency. And the style sheet helps with future books in the series. I’m a fan.
I am home. Drunkish. The sky is scandalously black. — Michael Crossan (@MichaelCrossann) January 25, 2013
Craft: Dismissing the Zombies
I’m sure you’re aware by now that some guy got famous by sticking zombies into the text of Pride and Prejudice.Well, I say famous; I couldn’t actually tell you his name, but I saw an interview where he said: “It’s a novel that really cries out for the inclusion of zombies. At least, it is for me.” Anything overused in fiction is a turn-off – and blimey, surely zombies have been warmed up so many times now that nobody who values originality could find them appetising fare.
London-based author, graphic novelist, and designer Dave Morris, has hauled out a column from his Mirabilis site from 2010 — interestingly paralleling a question from a reader the other day. She wanted to know if I considered Pride and Prejudice to be in the same class as the lesser contemporary erotic romance that’s up to knees these days.
Whatever stumbling “are you kidding?” I managed to get out in response was nothing compared to Morris’ eloquence in simply quoting Jane Austen at some length in the tense scene between Lady Catherine and Elizabeth Bennet.
Here, surely, is the most #legitlit imaginable — to use a recently introduced hashtag — in something that completely transcends a genre.
I’ll leave it to you to jump over to Morris’ Up against the wall and read the full passage he quotes there, I hope you’ll have the time.
Here, I’ll give you just a snippet from when women were women and romance was romance:
“Your ladyship wants Mr. Darcy to marry your daughter; but would my giving you the wished-for promise make their marriage at all more probable? Supposing him to be attached to me, would my refusing to accept his hand make him wish to bestow it on his cousin? Allow me to say, Lady Catherine, that the arguments with which you have supported this extraordinary application have been as frivolous as the application was ill-judged. You have widely mistaken my character, if you think I can be worked on by such persuasions as these. How far your nephew might approve of your interference in his affairs, I cannot tell; but you have certainly no right to concern yourself in mine. I must beg, therefore, to be importuned no farther on the subject.”
That was because an author friend of mine was dissing Austen as “just chick lit” and – oh, just read her. Wilful ignorance is the worst. — Dave Morris (@MirabilisDave) January 25, 2013
Craft: How Not To Get an Agent or Publisher
Best ebook: Fiction was first up…(the host read) the name of some odd-sounding bloke called James T. Raydel. I felt a momentary surge of disappointment. Then I remembered I’d written the book Shuffle under a pen-name. I was James T. Raydel. I had won.
Being the guy who announced that prize and the others in the Digital Book World Publishing Innovation Awards, I’m particularly amused at this anecdote. We all greeted Chris Rickaby as James T. Raydel, his pseudonym. (And he was very fast — made it up to the stage to collect his award from chief PIA judge Anne Kostick and back to his table before I’d finished talking about his work.) Here, he’s writing at The FutureBook’s blogs about the experience, The perfect strategy for not getting an agent. He describes his winning work, Shuffle, as “an e-novel designed from its inception to be shuffled and read in any order that suits the reader.”
I’ve had the usual mountain of rejection letters and e-mails. Many liked and applauded the concept but the general sentiment was, as one agent put it, both readers and the industry were too “pusillanimous” to embrace the idea. This was, in fact, my favourite rejection letter as I had no idea people who used the word pusillanimous still existed and was delighted to get such a stylish “no” from a proper literary gent.
His article is not just a chance to thank some of the people who worked with him on the Shuffle project — and Newcastle-based publisher Tonto Books — but also a moment for him to remind other authors that we’re passing through a transitional stage in which they have more chances to experiment and innovate than have been seen in centuries.
Allying a novel you can shuffle to a cross-platform narrative that includes an entire fictional provenance for the pen-name James T. Raydel, a Gorillaz-like fictional fiction-collective called Lulzlit, and hiring seven writers to tweet as that collective on Twitter for three months seemed like the perfect way to turn all those polite rejections into Gordon Ramsey-like invective. But, ever since the arrival of the Kindle and the iPad, one core thought has sustained me: if you’re creative person who wants to take risks and experiment now is the best time there has ever been in the last two hundred years to be a writer.
No stranger to concepts of transmedial production, Rickaby, AKA Raydel, goes on to extol just how non-traditional a 21st-century novel can be: Different parts of it can be in different places, different people can be involved in writing it, different structures and strands can evolve and weave their way across the virtual hinterlands of Pintrest, You Tube, Cafe Press and Twitter. In the process, Rickaby hands us an upbeat note, a smile with which to Shuffle us out:
Most importantly, because these opportunities are new they haven’t all been done yet. E-novels allied to online narratives are virgin spaces just waiting for writers with brand new ideas to come and explore them.
I’m drinking an Elmo juice box. Stop judging me. twitter.com/KateRados/stat… — Kate Rados (@KateRados) January 27, 2013
Ashlock Added to TOC’s Author (R)evolution Day
You’ll remember several mentions on the Ether(s) about the coming February 12 Author (R)evolution Day program in New York. (Its hashtag is #ARDay.)
The significance here is that this is the first time the annual flagship conference produced by O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing has staged a daylong event dedicated to authors. Its emphasis, as the title implies, is on the writer newly empowered by the capacities of the digital dynamic.
Jason Allen Ashlock — president of Movable Type Management and, with Adam Chromy, creator of The Rogue Reader authors’ collective — is among the leaders in what many of us see as a promising transition among literary agents toward a career-managerial role. It depends less on traditional publishing contracts and supports both “trad” and self-publishing.
His session in the conference on the 12th is called Radical Advocacy: Literary Agents on Your Side.
Some good discussion came about over the weekend at Writer Unboxed on this topic, relative to a column there, If the Agents Queried You.
As inevitably bemoaned by the many writers who hope to find traditional contracts through self-publishing, the nearly bottomless requirements of self-marketing can all but stop an author’s writing cold. The empowerment of digital capability comes with a major cost in terms of creative time and energy.
Ashlock’s session in the ARDay program will look at how agents and agencies are working to recast their services, offering “expansive” author management that can widen to handle writers’ needs.
As ever, for purposes of affordability, I can offer a discount code, AFFILIATEPA, to authors who would like to attend Author (R)evolution Day.
Does it come with a free cocktail? 🙂 RT @jamielbrennerWin a copy of THE GIN LOVERS in paperback bit.ly/X8wq89 RT — Jason Allen Ashlock (@jasonashlock) January 28, 2013
Conferences? What Conferences?
If you have a publishing conference in the offing, do let me know about it via my contact page, and I’ll be happy to consider including it in my site’s listing and in columns as I have the chance.
The 14th Annual Winter Conference of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators is set for February 1-3 in New York. “This year’s conference features two jam-packed days of inspiration and the latest on what’s happening in the field of children’s literature from top editors, agents, art directors, authors, and illustrators. Make sure you look at the detailed description of each workshop on the Schedule before you select your breakouts.”
February 12 New York City at the Marriott Marquis New York in Times Square. A first-ever author-dedicated daylong conference from the O’Reilly Media Tools of Change team, led by Joe Wikert, Kat Meyer, and Kristen McLean. Hashtag: #ARDay
TOC Author ( R )evolution Day: “This one-day conference-within-a-conference from the thought leaders at Tools of Change and Publishers Weekly is designed specifically for professional authors, content creators, agents, and independent author service providers who want to move beyond ‘Social Media 101’ to a more robust dialogue about the opportunities in today’s rapidly shifting landscape.”
Note: The second of three Friday-afternoon tweet-chats with speakers at this authors’ conference is planned for February 1 at 4 p.m. ET, 2100 GMT, with UK-based author and transmedia specialist Kate Pullinger; Boston’s Grub Street program director Eve Bridberg; and agent-manager Jason Allen Ashlock. The theme is “Author Skills for the New Publishing Reality.”
Use hashtag #ARDay to join the chat, hosted by conference co-chairs Kat Meyer and Kristen McLean.
February 12-14 New York City (again at Marriot Marquis Times Square) O’Reilly Media’s Tools of Change for Publishing Conference: “Every February, the publishing industry gathers at the O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing Conference (TOC) to explore the forces that are transforming publishing and focus on solutions to the most critical issues facing the publishing world. TOC sells out every year — don’t miss its potent mix of fabulous people and invaluable information.”
Under the direction of Joe Wikert and Kat Meyer. Hashtag: #TOCcon
March 6-9 Boston AWP, the Association of Writers and Writing Programs: AWP last year drew 10,000 attendees to icy Chicago, and, per its copy on the site this year, AWP “typically features 550 readings, lectures, panel discussions, and forums, as well as hundreds of book signings, receptions, dances, and informal gatherings.”
The labyrinthine book fair is said to have featured some 600 exhibitors last year. The program is a service-organization event of campus departments, hence the many readings by faculty members.
April 17 New York City paidContent Live: Riding the Transformation of the Media industry: Brisk and bracing, last year’s paidContent Live conference was efficient, engaging, and enlightening, not least for the chance to see many of the talented journalists of Om Malik’s GigaOM/paidContent team work onstage — Laura Hazard Owen, Mathew Ingram, Jeff John Roberts, Robert Andrews, Ernie Sander, et al.
Among speakers listed for this year’s busy day: Jonah Peretti, Jason Pontin, Chris Mohney, Erik Martin, David Karp, Mark Johnson, Aria Haghighi, Matt Galligan, Rachel Chou, Lewis D’Vorkin, John Borthwick, Andrew Sullivan, Jon Steinberg, Alan Rusbridger, Evan Ratliff, and, of course, Dominique Raccah and Michael Tamblyn.
May 2-5 Oxford, Mississippi Oxford Creative Nonfiction Writers Conference & Workshops Susan Cushman follows her Memphis Creative Nonfiction confab with this year’s gathering at the shrine.
Among faculty members: Neil White, Leigh Feldman, Lee Gutkind, Dinty W. Moore, Beth Ann Fennelly, Bob Guccione Jr. and Lee Martin. Pre-conference workshops or just the creature itself, your choice.
May 3-5 Boston The Muse & the Marketplace 2013 is a production of Eve Bridberg’s fast-rising non-profit Grub Street program. Its material tells us that organizers plan more than “110 craft and publishing sessions led by top-notch authors, editors, agents and publicists from around the country. The Manuscript Mart, the very popular and effective one-on-one manuscript reviews with agents and editors, will also span 3 days. We expect nearly 800 writers and publishing professionals to attend, while maintaining the conference’s wonderfully intimate, ‘grubby’ energy that we love.”
by “people” i am subtweeting myself. — Jen Doll (@thisisjendoll) January 27, 2013
Last Gas: Long Live the Gatekeepers
Maybe there is a conspiracy!
Liz Castro, who classifies herself a “neo-rural computer book writer and Catalanist,” has updated her original post headline from “We’re not the media if we don’t appear on Google or (Amazon)” to We’re not the media if we depend on Google (or Amazon).
In searching for news of the Catalonian declaration of sovereignty from Spain, she writes in her update, what should be “88 news sources,” per Google, comes up…zero. And this is worse than it was when she began looking for the originally promised 83 sources.
When I type in “Catalonia”, Google says there are 83 news items. When I ask Google to show me “all 83 news sources”, it gives me a list of only 16. You can try this at home…if you click “repeat the search with omitted results included” Google still only displays 25 items.There is no way to see all 83.
Her point here is not to debate Catalonian independence (although I’ll bet she’d enjoy doing that with you), but to ask “isn’t it a problem that I am necessarily limited by Google’s criteria?”
Going from a comment made by musician and famous Kickstarter Amanda Palmer — “We are the media” — Castro is ready to declare something less than independence, herself.
Like it or not, we are not the media, if we cannot be Googled…And don’t even get me started on Amazon search. How much publisher money is behind Amazon’s search results? I have no idea, but I’m guessing it’s not insignificant. We are not the media if we don’t come up on Amazon.
Working her way through these questions, she comes to a point I run across frequently in my work:
In this day and age when every one’s past opinions are documented publicly, can there even be unbiased opinions? I think not. I believe that the important thing is to know what the opinion is, so we can use that information to assess the validity of the opinion.
I agree with her, and this is why I always say that objectivity isn’t an option. We can try to be fair. We will never be objective. (It’s a critic’s endless battle to get this across to folks who inevitably think the goal is “objectivity.”)
Ha! “It’s Not Going To Get Any Better When You Grow Up” >> RT @ajaxlogos: Unfortunate books titles: thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/n…
— Sebastian Posth (@sposth) January 28, 2013
But the really intriguing formulation Castro has for you her energetic, committed essay is about gatekeepers, those people and outfits we like to say have been dismissed, especially in publishing and other public discourse.
In these heady times in which self-publishers, and the web designers who came before them, are gleeful with democratic information sharing,we must be absolutely aware that the gatekeepers have simply moved the gates.Whereas in earlier eras we couldn’t even publish without their help, now we can publish, only to find our sites and books hidden in a sea of information. Even if your book or website is in there, if Google or Amazon or whatever search product of the moment won’t bring it up, it’s as if it weren’t there.
Castro makes cogent references to the Amazon reviews situation — “Amazon’s reviews were an amazing crowd-sourcing adventure, now run amok by enterprising and back-stabbing authors on the one hand, and Amazon wanting to watch the gates, on the other” — and to past search engines like Altavista (is that a name you haven’t thought of for years, or what?), And in the end, she positions an important warning sign here for all of us, mercifully without accusation or rancor, just alarm. How refreshing. She simply takes the reality of our moment and writes:
While we wait (or develop) the tools to maintain our democratic web, we must be careful to be aware that right now there is no unbiased opinion, and no unbiased search.
Off to Madeira today for sun & frolics. Who know? I may even drink port.
— Orna Ross (@OrnaRoss) January 28, 2013
Porter Anderson is a Fellow with the National Critics Institute, a 32-year journalist with several newspapers and three networks of CNN, as well as a producer posted to the Rome headquarters of the United Nations’ World Food Programme. His Writing on the Ether is read Thursdays at JaneFriedman.com. More at PorterAnderson.com
Main image / iStockphoto: George Burba