View from the fence

<p>I was asked to go on &quot;PM&quot; last week to react to the news that Amazon had, for the first time, sold more e-books than &ldquo;real&rdquo; books. &quot;As an author&quot;, as the researcher explained. On closer inspection, it was a little more nuanced than that. There are issues like free downloads of out-of-print titles and the fact that the comparison was with hardbacks only but, over three months, 143 Kindle books were sold for every 100 paper-and-board books.</p>
<p>And that wasn't all. There was also the question of the &quot;Wylie strategy&quot;.Andrew Wylie's agency has negotiated exclusive e-book rights with Amazon. The advantage for authors is an undisclosed increase in the royalty payable on downloads, taking it above the 20% offered by publishers. When I read this, I was reminded of the kerfuffle about the exclusive tie-in between Penguin's travel books and W H Smith. It all looks a lot like a turf war, with the &ldquo;content providers&rdquo; attempting to secure market share by forming alliances with the distribution channels.</p>
<p>Chatting with other writers&mdash;in green rooms, launch parties, summer parties&mdash;it seems many of us are a bit nervous about the regular assertions that no good can come of all this. Victoria- Barnsley, c.e.o. of HarperCollins, for example, argued: &ldquo;The only winners in this are Amazon.&rdquo;</p>
<p>Is that true? Authors are worried because we don't know. This whole business gave me a sense of d&eacute;j&agrave; vu&mdash;the days of the big decision whether to opt in or opt out of the Google Settlement. Lots of writers felt that no one&mdash;not their editors, not their agents, not the lawyers asked to propound in the press&mdash;had a definitive view. Of course, that's the nature of the new.&nbsp; No one does quite know&mdash;though Tim Hely Hutchison sent an excellent email to all Hachette authors, albeit awfully close to the deadline.</p>
<p>Through all this &ldquo;wither the industry&rdquo; debates, I feel I'm looking on from the outside. It's frustrating not to understand the implications and, truthfully, I realise I resent having to think about it all. Like many writers, I just want to concentrate on the book that I'm working on&mdash;the content, not the &quot;method of delivery&quot;. But, at the same time, it's ostrich-like not to think about how much money I should earn from the sale of a story I wrote that requires neither printing, binding, stocking nor shipping&mdash;at least not in the traditional senses.</p>
<p>In the end, I don't want to have a view on all this&mdash;I'm much more interested in the type of brakes on my heroine's 1940s bicycle&mdash;but I realise that I am going to have to find one.<br />
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