TÖRdötCÖM’s plans for ebooks

 We’ve been hemming and hawing for the better part of six months, telling you that there are “things happening”, and that there are “rumblings”, and other stupidly cryptic crap like that. So I thought I’d talk a bit more openly about TÖRdötCÖM’s plans for ebooks.

You people have spoken, sometimes shouted (and cursed, and threatened, and cajoled…) that you want more ebooks, and that not only that, you supposedly want to buy them from us. With money (this is the part where we sat up and started listening). So over the past few months, we’ve been evaluating the market, focus-grouping our initiatives, and calculating our projected ROI from such a venture. We’ve also been working hard with our team of lawyers in order to suss out that magic-bullet: a rights-management scheme that serves our shareholders’ interests best.

We’ve been doing research into book piracy, working hand in hand with the newly-minted BPAA, who have brought the expertise and forward-thinking, clear-eyed objectivism we’ve come to know from its sister organizations, the RIAA and the MPAA.

Some of us have been charged with looking into formats and workflow, and with trying to figure out what won’t work in terms of readability, interoperability, and general usability.

This has led us to several conclusions which I’d like to share with you. Our conclusions are simple: ebooks are for chumps, and we’re not gonna waste our time pandering to a handful of alpha geeks with aggrandized senses of entitlement, who can’t possibly be bothered to read books on anything that’s not bright and shiny.

Let me break this down for you, and explain how we came to our conclusions. I think that by the time I’m done, you’ll agree with us.

First, the production process associated with creating ebooks is an incredibly complicated procedure, involving arcane incantations in PERL, convoluted HTML programing, and possibly a sacrificial chicken or two (depending on the day). Churning out one copy of one title as an ePub file is a herculean task that took our intern (Stuy High School represent!) no less than three weeks for the three books she actually tried to convert into ebooks. That’s just a pain in the ass. Additionally, once we realized that this ebook-conversion process effectively cuts our printers, binders, and warehousers out of the equation, we realized that this change would hit us where it hurts the most: those three-martini lunches our printer’s reps take us out for on a weekly basis. No thanks, dude. I’ll take mine shaken, not stirred. And three olives.

We’ve also been looking into piracy, as mentioned above, and have come to some very worrisome conclusions. For starters, pirates are everywhere, lurking around every corner, waiting for one of our editors to slip up and leave a manuscript unattended for even two minutes, during which time the pirate will either sneak into said editor’s office via the air vents, or swing on a rope and into a window (knife between the teeth in both instances, of course), very quickly photocopy and OCR the manuscript in question, and sneak away before our poor hapless editor has come back from her coffee break. We’ve actually seen this happen—we’ve got video (no, we won’t show it to you. It’s copyrighted content, and you’re not allowed to see it).

After that, it’s off to the races: the pirate will retreat to their cavernous lair, deep under Grand Central Station in New York, where, lit only by torchlight and LED status lights, they “upload” their spoils onto “servers”, from which apparently these people can “download” the fruit of our hard work via “torrents” of data being piped into their very homes. Once a pirate has this “torrent” they can then apparently read at their leisure, on any device they choose. They can even pass along a copy to their spouse, or their friends! It’s scandalous. I mean, not only are people recommending books to each other, they’re freely engaging in federal crimes when they “share” these files! That’s just not the way things have been done around here. Any recommendations for books need to come directly from our marketing departments, worded in very specific ways. We have people who do this for a living: they craft press releases and ad copy that is specifically designed to entice you into buying the big, front list books that we want you to buy, not some mid-list flop that your boy Herbie tweeted to you about.

Under the magnanimous tutelage of the BPAA, and its sister organizations the RIAA and the MPAA, we’ve come to recognize that piracy is a huge problem, and that it will gut our profits as former buyers become sharers, enthralled by this pirate mafiaa that traffics in stolen goods. Plus, don’t forget: every time a pirate steals a file, a terrorist gets a new AK-47. Is that what you want for your children? Of course not, and neither do we. Our children are safe at our well-appointed homes on the Upper West Side, being watched over by our Swedish au-pairs while we go out on those three-martini lunches I was telling you about. We’d like to keep them that way.

After all this arduous research, we still weren’t quite convinced that this ebook business was all bad. And then we took delivery of a Kindle 2. Boy, was that a disaster! Reading on a screen is downright painful. After five minutes of trying to read on the Kindle, my eyes felt like kindling. Besides, you can’t take it to the beach, or to the bathtub, because you’ll instantly be electrocuted—it is a piece of electronics, after all. That’s not even the half of it: When we complained to the people at Amazon about the horrible reading experience they told us that we could actually have the Kindle read a book to us, in a human voice! We tried it out, and sure enough, there was the voice of God Himself, Morgan Freeman, reading from the Eye of the World (yeah, we’ve got e-versions of all the WoT books—even the ones that Sanderson hasn’t finished yet—locked away in a vault, ready to be read—and no, you can’t have them. Ever). Of course, this is a huge breach of copyright, so we called our lawyers, who were more than happy to raise a big, big stink, as you may have heard about. It’s what we pay them for, after all.

So in the end we realized that this ebook fad really isn’t for us. For the most part, we’ve decided to sit this out, and wait till The Market comes full circle, because, as we all know, The Market self-regulates and has an extraordinary knack for making sure that big corporations make many millions of dollars in profits, regardless of economic conditions.

However, we do realize that a large part of our readership consists of the aforementioned alpha geeks who can’t possibly be bothered to read books on anything that’s not bright and shiny, so we’re willing to throw you a bone: starting today, we do, in fact, have ebook versions of all our titles available. All you have to do is come down to the Flatiron Building in NYC, where we’ll have our patented, trademarked, copyrighted, and bolted-down-to-the floor TÖRdötCÖM Rëedin’Stäishüns set up right in the building. Just go down into the sub-basement of the Flatiron and look for the disused lavatory with the ”Beware of the Dragon” sign hanging on the door. These machines will be available to you on weekdays from 9:25AM to 9:35AM; again from 2:44PM to 2:54PM; and yet again from 5:23PM to 5:33PM  EST (except for holidays), and, for the attractive fee of $49.99 USD per book, will display the book of your choice one page at a time, each page lingering in your field of vision for a period of five to seven minutes. Except for the WoT books. we’ve already told you: you can’t have those. Ever. No, we don’t have to give you a reason, our contempt for our customers is reason enough.

And to all those apologists out there who love all this open-source, creative commons, hippie-dippy ‘culture of sharing’ crap, quoting Cory Doctorow and Lawrence Lessig left and right: Give me a break. Doctorow’s a hack. He’s up there in his little ballon, with his silly cape, blogging about hippie hacker communes making toast with lasers and arduino boards, and zombies. You’re gonna listen to some guy who writes about zombies? Really? Come on. And Lessig? Don’t even get me started on Lessig—he’s to busy hamming it up on the Colbert Report and trying to bring down the government these days. Besides, he’s a university professor. What does he know of running a business? Of making a profit? Lessig: stick to your ivory tower and leave the profit making to the professionals.

So come on down to the TÖRdötCÖM Rëedin’Stäishüns and join the revolution. Hell, we’ll even throw in a free beer.

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