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Jerry Pournelle on copyright and publishing

As part of our ongoing discussion about the future of science fiction, copyright, and the publishing industry, here's a recent column by Jerry Pournelle, offering his take. He makes many points, but this one stood out for me:

Book publishing has always had a low return on investment, and has always depended on editorial people who love their work and are willing to start at ridiculously low pay and live five to an apartment on a fourth-floor walkup despite having a cum laude degree from an expensive college just so they can be part of the publishing world.

I tend to agree with him that, in many respects, the trade publishers (including those imprints devoted to science fiction and fantasy) have been run by 'book people,' often avid readers themselves who aren't just in it for the money.

Of course, I haven't really dealt with publishing houses as an author myself, and I could understand some writers having less happy memories of trying to make their way around, or through, the slush pile. But the experiences I have had with them lead me to hope they might be willing eventually to share their views with us about the future of science fiction and fantasy, and what role OpenLit and Social Publishing will play in it.

kelson.philo's picture

Richard, do you think that

Richard, do you think that publishers will come to accept OpenLit as a future resource? I know the prime positive example is Cory Doctorow's case, but that's one out of, what, ten thousand a year for submissions to print publishing?

That's the hope

We certainly hope publishers will eventually join our discussions here. Electronic publishing raises many questions, and there are challenges and opportunities ahead for the book trade, just as there have been in recent years for the music industry.

Having worked with trade publishers in the past, I'd like to think many--perhaps even most--of them will be able to make it through the coming transitions smoothly. But it seems likely that that's going to demand a re-evaluation of their traditional ways of doing business.

Our hope is that Oort Cloud will make a positive contribution to that process, and that publishers will take a serious look at Social Publishing and OpenLit.

But Paul and I are only starting the discussion. We're hoping the Oort Cloud community as a whole will pick up these ideas and engage with them. The more debates we have about the future of science-fiction and fantasy publishing, the more likely we all are to come up with useful ideas for readers, writers, and publishers alike.

the OpenLit definition

I've been toying around with trying to write a little about OpenLit. The description you guys give on the faq pages, is good...but is there more to it than that? Can we as a community flesh out something that really represents the openLit ethos, whatever that is?I mentioned on an earlier blog that I wanted to start an OpenLit WIKI page, and I intend to do so. however, i don't want to just post whats on node 5 . I am going to post a blog sooner or later about the community further defining OpenLit, but I don't know how to begin...any ideas?

paulbhartzog's picture

Make Room, Make Room

Yes, and lets not forget that the more people we engage in the discussion, the more likely it is that publishers will have to engage as well. And we definitely want them engaged.