Elizabeth: A Pirate’s Life?

I had no idea what today’s post would be when I woke up this morning; thankfully, the internet had my back.  While eating my morning pancakes, I read this post by writer Chuck Wendig and then saw this link, courtesy of a Facebook post by author Loretta Chase.  Both were in reference to the Internet Archive’s recent launch of a “National Emergency Library”, making 1.4 million books available free online with no waiting to address “our unprecedented global and immediate need for access to reading and research material” during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Sounds good, right?

If you are unfamiliar with the Internet Archive, here is a brief explanation from their website:

The Internet Archive, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, is building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. Like a paper library, we provide free access to researchers, historians, scholars, the print disabled, and the general public. Our mission is to provide Universal Access to All Knowledge.  Because we are a library, we pay special attention to books. Not everyone has access to a public or academic library with a good collection, so to provide universal access we need to provide digital versions of books. We began a program to digitize books in 2005 and today we scan 1,000 books per day in 28 locations around the world. Books published prior to 1923 are available for download, and hundreds of thousands of modern books can be borrowed through our Open Library site. Some of our digitized books are only available to the print disabled.

Making books available to people who don’t have access seems like a great thing, but that line I highlighted above (“we scan 1,000 books per day”) is where things get tricky and where authors are having heartburn, specifically authors, whose books under copyright have been scanned and are now being made freely available to anyone.

When asked if what they were doing was stealing from authors and publishers, the Internet Archive defended their actions stating:

“Libraries buy books or get them from donations and lend them out. This has been true and legal for centuries. The idea that this is stealing fundamentally misunderstands the role of libraries in the information ecosystem.”

I feel like that statement fundamentally misunderstands how libraries and lending work, as well as the mechanisms in place to make sure authors are paid for their books.

The common theme I’ve seen in author responses to this issue is that the Internet Archive is “hitting authors when they’re down” by denying them sales of books that are still in copyright.

“The problem with bypassing copyright and disrupting the chain of royalties that lead from books to authors is that it endangers our ability to continue to produce art — and though we are all in the midst of a crisis, most artists are on the razor’s edge in terms of being able to support themselves.” ~ Chuck Wendig

According to an article in The Guardian the Authors Guild in the US

[C]alled the decision appalling and said it was “shocked that the IA would use the Covid-19 epidemic as an excuse to push copyright law further out to the edges, and in doing so, harm authors, many of whom are already struggling”.  Adding that the IA has “no rights whatsoever to these books” and accusing it of “using a global crisis to advance a copyright ideology that violates current federal law and hurts most authors.”

Authors Guild president Douglas Preston put it more bluntly saying,

“It’s as though they looted a bookstore and started handing away books to passersby. They are hurting authors and bookstores at a time when they can least bear it.”

For books that are out-of-copyright, the Internet Archive’s wide-open access is one thing, but how would you feel as an author if you found someone had taken your book, scanned it without asking your permission, and was now making it freely available for anyone to read?

Kind of sounds like piracy.

I know I wouldn’t be too happy, especially if I was spending time and money to market the book or counting on steady royalty checks to help keep afloat.

So what do you think?  Is the Internet Archive providing a valuable service or have they overstepped?

Nancy: Creativity Is Hard Work

Me, every writing day. Often, I am pushing the same damn boulder I’ve been pushing for weeks or months.

Last week, I had a conversation with a very creative person in a field other than writing. (Yes, it turns out there are creatives in the world who are not writers! I, too, was surprised.) We were discussing “living the dream.” Which is, apparently, what I, as a full-time writer, am doing. My creative friend, still working the day job, is not. And he had thoughts about that.

Actually, he has dreams of his own, which are wonderful things! He also has some misconceptions about what my day-to-day life of dream-living entails.

For those of you who have not met me IRL, I should explain that I have no poker face. Ergo, I could not hide my shock, dismay, and perhaps even amusement at his idea of my life. And while I have my own dreams of spending my writing days frolicking with unicorns and sliding down rainbows while the Best Story Ever Written magically appears on my computer screen, I’ve only had two, maybe three days tops, when unicorns have appeared. And those might or might not have involved whisky. That is to say, this dream gig is hard. Continue reading

Nancy: Damn Fine Story Advice: Story Stakes

If you hang out with writers long enough, observe them in their natural habitat, and learn what keeps them up at night, at some point you’re bound to hear a discussion about what writers like/are able/can bring themselves to read when they’re deeply immersed in their own stories. Books inside their writing genre? Outside the genre? No books at all during certain stages o the process?

These days, I’m rarely ‘not writing’ (not to be confused with procrastinating – that I do aplenty!), so a writing-driven reading moratorium won’t work for me. But I tend to read like I write: a little bit of everything and more than story at a time. Lately, I’ve been drawn to non-fiction. Per usual, I’m geeking out on science-for-non-scientists books. But this weekend I put down Stephen Hawking and picked up some Chuck Wendig (with no segue, rhyme, or reason because my mind is a mysterious, scary, mess of a place).

If you’re not familiar with Wendig, you really must check out his blog, where he generously doles out  amazing advice, life observations, movie reviews, and the occasional recipe (although I am not going to try this one). For a more distilled collection of his story-specific guidance, I highly recommend Damn Fine StoryIt made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me…Okay, what it actually did was make me think, but don’t let that scare you away from it – it’s thinking in a fun way! As with all writing advice, he implores his readers to take what they need and leave the rest for another time, place, or writer. And this weekend, what I needed was a deep, thorough look at story stakes. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Ready, Set, NaNo!

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

November, with NaNoWriMo, is a ready-made time to get some words on the page.  Thousands of other people are writing at the same time, there is a tool to track your progress, and there are dozens of individuals, both on the NaNo site and on their own blogs, who are offering advice and encouragement.  As a plus, it’s getting dark earlier and earlier these days, making curling up with a good story (your own, of course), an appealing choice.

Last year, there were 431,626 official NaNoWriMo participants, and since its inception, there have been over 250 traditionally published NaNoWriMo novels plus an unknown number of non-traditionally published ones.

Last week, once I realized that November was right around the corner, I Continue reading

Elizabeth: How Men Talk (in fiction)

talkingThe topic of today’s post was triggered by a couple of things I’ve heard/read in the past few days.

First was a recently released tape of a conversation by one of our presidential candidates which, if you haven’t been living under a rock or staying away from the news, you’re probably familiar with.  The tape has generated a lot of discussion about men (how they talk and what they do) including a very thoughtful piece on Chuck Wendig’s blog about locker room talk.

The “too long/didn’t read” gist of the post is:

“No, it’s not all men.

No, it’s not all ‘locker rooms.’

But it’s some of them. It’s more than we’d like.”

Chuck’s post and several others discussions I read about how men talk and are perceived got me to thinking about how men are portrayed in the books I read

I don’t remember ever encountering a misogynistic sexist male in a romance, unless it was an antagonist or some other character who received his comeuppance or an “attitude adjustment” by the story’s end.  I certainly don’t recall ever encountering a hero who would ever be described that way. Continue reading

Justine: Fiction Fundamentals…Writing Great Characters

bunch of charactersWelcome to Part 3 of Fiction Fundamentals. When I approached the topic of writing great characters, I didn’t realize how much information you, New Writer, should know about what really makes them sizzle until I went back and looked at the pages of notes I’d collected and the long list of bookmarks in my browser. I’ve been absorbing this for over three years, between classes at McDaniel, blog posts I’ve read, conference lectures I’ve attended, and web classes I’ve taken.

Rather than write a 10K word blog post (because really, I could, there’s so much great info about writing good characters), I’m going to Continue reading

Elizabeth: This is Your Story

IMG_0673In Jilly’s Sunday post, we had a great discussion about what catches your attention when reading about a new book and what causes you to say thanks-but-no-thanks.

In the name of research (I couldn’t possibly have been looking for more books to add to my TBR pile), I logged on to BookBub and read the blurbs for a vast number of books trying to clearly identify my try-this-book triggers. I’m still trying to nail that down because I got distracted along the way by the basic plots that I saw over and over.

I started keeping track (in a spreadsheet, of course).

Of the 100+ titles I read through, these plots were the most popular: Continue reading