“Such are the perfections of fiction...Everything it teaches is useless insofar as structuring your life: you can’t prop up anything with fiction. It, in fact, teaches you just that. That in order to attempt to employ its specific wisdom is a sign of madness...There is more profit in an hour’s talk with Billy Graham than in a reading of Joyce. Graham might conceivably make you sick, so that you might move, go somewhere to get well. But Joyce just sends you out into the street, where the world goes on, solid as a bus. If you met Joyce and said 'Help me,' he’d hand you a copy of Finnegans Wake. You could both cry.” – Gilbert Sorrentino, Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things

Friday, September 3, 2010

Franzen's Freedom Leaked as Illegal Download

It's official: Jonathan Franzen's Freedom has been leaked as an illegal download on the webernet. I've eyeballed it myself. This has appeared really quickly, even sooner that David Mitchell's Jacob de Zoet.

I'm in no way advocating the downloading of the book (those of you who know where to look will find it anyway), but we're going to see more and more of this with literary titles (as I've noted in the past, ebook Piracy is huge already, but so far it's been mostly confined to academic books, textbooks, and 'genre' fiction), which will undermine Cory Doctorow's claim that science fiction is the only kind of writing people will illegally download.


Connor Tomas O'Brien said...

What I'm kind of wondering is: as soon as people recognise that they can pirate popular ebooks, will Kindles begin selling like hotcakes? The decisive factor that led people to purchase iPods early on was the realisation that, "Hey, now I can get all the music I want for free." Now that we've moved to the digital model, Apple are doing a good job of convincing consumers to, once again, pay for music. Without Napster and P2P, I think there's an argument to be made that we wouldn't have the iPod or the iTunes Music Store.

So, my two cents: I think this represents a weird opportunity - the "Hey, now I can get all the books I want for free" realisation could give readers a good reason to switch from paper to pixels. Once readers begin to feel comfortable with ereaders, Amazon/Apple can harness that momentum to convince consumers to pay for electronic books.

Does that sound nuts?

Emmett Stinson said...

That's an interesting point, Connor, but I'm already on record as disliking the analogy to the music industry (more details in the link in my post to my article in the last issue of Overland). For one thing, you can download lots of music and, in theory, listen to all/most of it. But reading books is really time-intensive. In theory, it's great to have 1000s of books on a reading device, but you'd almost certainly never read all of them. Music also has a social dimension (you can plug your iPod into your friends' stereos to play them good new music while you're all hanging out), but fiction requires immersive reading and so can't work this way.

Lastly, the problem with the Kindle, I think, is that it's pretty clearly a niche technology, i.e. I want a kindle because I read all of the time, and e-ink appeals because it isn't hard on the eyes. But only a small percentage of people spend enough time reading books to make this commitment. Once ereader price points get low enough (and they're close), this may change to some degree, but I suspect the future of this lies more with tablet devices/smart phones that do other stuff but will also let you read books, for the simple reason that these are devices that most people will actually own.

Connor Tomas O'Brien said...

Kindle is a niche technology, but I reckon that works in its favour. If you have a dedicated electronic reading device by your bedside, it goes to follow that you'll feel a compulsion to purchase and read ebooks. The Kindle makes me want to read more, and I think that's really important. The trick, for anybody who manufactures dedicated e-readers, is somehow making the case that it's worth lugging around yet another gadget.

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