Open vs. Closed, a concrete example.

So, over the past couple of years, writers and novelists have been talking (and fretting) about the future of their livlihoods, vis a vis the rise of ereaders and the newfound ability of new and untested creators to forge their own path outside the traditional publishing circles.

It all sounds very much like the webcomics debate that’s been going on for over a decade now, but I’m not sure if the traditional authors side has anyone as vehemently opposed to the future as a Ted Rall or Wiley Miller.

There is, however, one big difference between webcomcs and indy books, that authors would do well to keep in mind:

The World Wide Web.

Tim Berners-Lee and the others at CERN who developed the Web were enlightened enough to donate the technology to the public domain. Anyone can use it, and everyone does. Even those few webcomic collectives that have tried to hide their offerings behind a subscription paywall have done so using the Web.

The only barriers to entry on a webcomic are the creativity and drive of the individual cartoonist, and the only stumbling blocks to a successful run are persistence and bandwidth costs.

Indy ebooks, on the other hand? Sure, you can find them for sale on the Web, but they’re not really of the Web. Their existence, at least at the moment, has everything to do with the self-interest of Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

But mostly Amazon.

This may prove to juse be worst-case-scenario speculation on my part, but I can see either bookstore deciding that the terms they’ve been offering indy authors are far too generous, and that it’s time to stop leaving money on the table. What one does, the other will duplicate. That, or one of the major publishers decides to strong-arm them, offering their upcoming guaranteed bestsellers ebook versions to the stores that drop the indy titles.

Either way, it’s gonna hurt.

Solutions? Authors need to find exposure beyond the closed platforms of the bookstores, above and beyond personal blogs, guest blogging, and banner ads. Something like Comic Rocket or The Webcomic List. A directory specifically for independant authors, organized by genre, content, and the like, to let readers find out what’s out there.

I think there’s a market for it.

A Peek Behind the Curtain

This is something I’ve wanted to do periodically, provide a bit of running commentary on a just-completed week over at TRU-Life Adventures.

Most of this week was spent with Bob on his own in the storeroom, with nobody to cover his lunch. Not a new idea, but this week was the first time it’s been mentioned as happening outside the confines of an incredible simulation.

It’s not one of those things I made up.

Back when I was at the toy store, it was fairly common during the slowest days of the slowest months to run with a skeleton crew. Which meant only one person available to bring Big Ticket merchandise out to waiting customers. And that happened to be often enough to remember it even now, over a decade later.

Not bitter, seriously.

See, unlike what happens to Bob, the various management teams were really good about making sure backup was available for breaks or the slim chance things got busy. Including coming back and helping out, if necessary. There’s a reason I’ve tried to make even Kendall a sympathetic character.

Besides, being the only person back there also meant I wasn’t being subjected to cries of “Hey, Good Buddy!” Just sayin’.