I’ve read a blog post by Olga Gromyko, who is a popular award-winning Russian and Belorussian writer and, one can say, one of the founders of a new genre of Russian literature (the humorous fantasy). And this post has resonated so well with the summary of my previous Anti-Pirate post that I’ve decided to translate it here (shortened and totally un-authorized). It is especially interesting, because Russia being one of the countries with the highest piracy level represents in my opinion quite well a possible future of Europe, if our Pirate party and other anti-DRM fighters would win the elections.
“We, writers, are often asked why do we depend that much on paper books. Without paper books our forests would be healthier and our shelves not so full. It is especially true, because [in Russia] mostly sub-optimal works are being printed, and the truly great ones are available in the Internet for free[…]
Alas, nowadays the success metric of a book is not its quality, and even not its readability, but its want-to-own potential.
The want-to-own potential depends partially on readability in the sense that a want-to-own book is almost always readable. Unfortunately, the opposite doesn’t hold. And while book readability can quite precisely be estimated by critics, the want-to-own potential cannot be predicted well.
Ten people would read youth fantasy by [some author] and remain not involved. But the eleventh one will drown the book in his own tears, and will camp before closed doors of the book store waiting for the next book. He wants this book, a paper version indeed, to be able to own it as an artifact and fetish, and will bind his emotions to this material paper book, which can be so tenderly hold against the heart.
An electronic book reader is unusable for this purpose. It is similar to a shopping mall toilet. And you want to close yourself in your own toilet, comfortable, cosy and well-decorated.
[The emotional binding to an artifact] is also the reason why fans are asking for autographs, and also for the fan service industry (t-shirts, figures, comics etc).
In fact, the highest influencer to the want-to-own potential is the author’s name, followed by the [popularity of] book series [your book is part of], and finally, by the [typographic quality of print, cover and binding]. Yes, yes, some readers would really buy books according to the color of their wallpapers. [Also, buying books as a present highly depends on the typographic quality].
The actual quality of the text does not correlate with the want-to-own potential. A smart, insightful and thought-provoking text will be read once, and never ever be read again, because it targets our brains, not our heart. Our brains are rational: you don’t need to buy a book if you are not going to re-read it again. That’s why publishers don’t issue such kind of books [a lot]. They are not profitable[…]
Similarly, the text can be interesting, humorous, entertaining and stuff, but if the book doesn’t have the want-to-own potential, it won’t be bought. “Yeah, this text is wonderful, I’ve read it the whole night, and I was laughing like crazy [… but I won’t buy the book, because it won’t be interesting to re-read]”
In the both cases, the situation can be improved dramatically if we had a stable and working market of (non-pirated) electronic books. But we [in Russia] don’t have it – 95% to 99% of all electronic books is downloaded for free from pirate sites.
This is also the reason, why [in Russia] the [emotionally binding] nyannyan books have won against [the other kinds of literary works].
I’d be glad to write electronic books. Just write the book, design it, upload and set the price – voila, profit. But!.. :) Even though my newest book has been downloaded by thousands and thousands of readers from a lot of pirate sites, its legal electronic version could bring only [under 300€] of sales. [You can’t afford writing books professionally, if you get only 300€ for them].”
Her blog post has already generated 509 comments :)
From my point of view, a similar situation holds also for the web sites. If you’re wondering why the hell you are forced to do this and that by a web site. If you are disturbed by ads. If you’re tired of spam. Consider how the Internet looked like if you had habit of paying some 2€ to 20€ montly fee for each of the sites you use daily.