[Plura-list] How the Attack Surface audiobook can reform Audible; How to buy doubt; Mr Gotcha v covid

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Sun Sep 13 13:36:23 EDT 2020

Today's links

* How the Attack Surface audiobook can reform Audible: Pebbles R Us.

* How to buy doubt: The Koch brothers vs reality's left-wing bias.

* Mr Gotcha v covid: We should improve public health somewhat.

* This day in history: 2005, 2010, 2015, 2019

* Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming appearances, current writing
projects, current reading


🔥 How the Attack Surface audiobook can reform Audible

There's an *excellent* piece up on Fast Company by Steven Melendez about
my Kickstarter campaign to pre-sell audibooks of my next novel, as a way
to demonstrate the viability of publishing audio without caving to
Audible/Amazon's mandatory DRM policy.


Melendez does great work laying out the case for refusing DRM, and the
risks to publishers and writers in allowing Amazon to lock their works
to its platform (it's a felony to remove DRM or provide the tools to do
so, even if you own the copyright to the DRM-locked work!).

Reading his piece, it strikes me that I could do a better job for laying
out my theory of change here - how preordering the audiobook could
actually lead to a fairer world where power shifts away from Amazon
(owners of Audible) to the creators of audiobooks.

Obviously most authors couldn't do what I'm doing. I've been publishing
books since 2000, more than 20 of 'em, with several NYT bestsellers.
This particular book is the sequel to two *massive* bestsellers with
huge, dedicated followings.

Publishing lives and dies on this kind of book. One of the major reason
that publishers publish "midlist" books and first novels is in the hopes
that they'll "break out" and become perennial bestsellers that subsidize
the next round of risky bets on midlist and first books.

So while this isn't a typical kind of book, it's an important one.

So let's say this does really well in audio, selling, say, 10,000
copies. That works out really well for me, as I'm the publisher for this
one, because I keep 95% of that (Kickstarter gets 5%).


By contrast, if my publisher sold this with Audible, they'd get 70%
(Amazon takes 30%), and then I'd get 25% of that (17.5% of the gross).
That means I earn 542% of what my take would be with a publisher/Audible
on these sales.

So my profit on 10,000 self-published, Kickstarted audiobooks is roughly
equivalent to 54,200 commercial books sold through Audible. I had to pay
to produce the audiobook and put in a hard month's work on promoting the
KS, but that still a great upside.

So that's one way things could change. Frontlist writers could demand to
retain their audio rights in publisher negotiations and do what I did.
It's hard work, and only a minority of writers are situated to do it,
but it would make sense for some of 'em.

And that would definitely make a dent in Amazon's business: they're a
hit-driven biz, too. If a big chunk of major books were "Audible
exclusive" (that is, sold everywhere EXCEPT Audible), they'd feel the
pinch, first in lost revenues and then in lost subscribers.	

After all, once the presale campaign is over, this book will be for sale
everywhere EXCEPT Audible: libro.fm, downpour.com, even Google Play. All
of those stores have stock and plans that are basically identical to

And if they amass sizeable collections of exclusive-of-Audible
bestsellers, there will be good reasons for customers to defect to them
from Audible.

But what about the publishers? Well, maybe they won't release their
frontlist authors' audiobook rights - but if they can make *much* more
money by working *with* authors to presell their audiobooks, *and*
weaken Amazon's stranglehold over their business...why wouldn't they?

In this scenario, authors and publishers do (better-than-retail) revenue
shares for a crowdfunded, DRM-free presale campaign, again diverting the
bestselling titles from Amazon/Audible, once again driving support for
retail alternatives to Amazon.

One advantage I haven't mentioned yet: shifting away from Audible is
*great* news for libraries, since neither Audible originals, nor Kindle
originals, are available *at all* for library purchase. Imagine a
publisher *boycotting libraries*!

And here's the theory-of-change part: realistically, not selling through
Amazon means that a lot of readers and listeners won't encounter your
work - even if you make more money overall, this is not ideal.

My end-game is for Amazon to make good on the promise it made in 2008
when it bought Audible: to drop its DRM (or at least make it optional!).
That way, readers who buy their audiobooks from Amazon can change
retailers without abandoning their expensive audiobooks.

That alone won't end Amazon's dominance (we'll need meaningful antitrust
enforcement for that), but without that step, competition doesn't have a
hope in hell.

We MUST end the situation where every dollar spent on our books at
Audible is a dollar our readers will have to throw away to switch to a

We can do that, and we don't need every writer to be in a position to
refuse Audible to make it happen.

We just need to starve them of the books from their most popular authors
- and happily, those authors stand the best chance of making *more*
money by doing crowdfunders for pre-sales.

If bestsellers like me do this, we'll make more money *and* we'll make
the world better for *all* authors.

And one more bonus: I'm using the crowdfunder to presell ebooks (and
sell ebooks for the previous two volumes - 4,000 ebooks in five days
(and counting).

I'm the retailer for these ebooks, so I get 30% off the top, send the
remaining 70% to my publisher, and they send me 25% of that back as a
royalty: that means I get 47.5% of the gross on these.

And they're ebooks that are sold without enriching Amazon.

That's my fiendish plan - my plan to be the pebble that starts the
avalanche that moves the mountain.

You can help! A $15 pre-order for the audiobook (list price $25!) will
help to change the world:


I look forward to selling the first-ever DRM-free Audible book.

(thank you for attending my TED Talk!)


🔥 How to buy doubt

Reality has a well-known leftist bias. If you want to convince people
that inequality, high carbon emissions and austerity are good for them,
you need to get them to abandon reality.

That's actually easier than you'd think.

Reality is hard to know. Are 737 Maxes safe? Should you wear a mask? Are
vaccines safe? Is your kid's distance ed any good?

These are all questions that can only be answered by mastering multiple
disciplines, reviewing the literature, checking the math in the papers, etc.

To know reality, we rely not on experts, but on expert *processes*: the
regulatory truth-seeking exercises in which neutral experts hear
competing claims from other experts and adjudicate them, showing their
work and disqualifying themselves if they have conflicts.

Maybe you can't evaluate microbiology claims, but you should be able to
figure out whether the process they used to arrive at those claims was
fair, neutral, transparent, and subject to review when new evidence emerges.

If you want to make the truth unknowable, you don't start by convincing
people of wrong things, you start by making it hard to know whether
*anything* is true.

Look at Vladislav Surkov, who was Putin's long-serving disinformation guy.

Surkov's signature move was boasting that he secretly funded *some*
opposition groups, but never saying which ones were inauthentic and
which ones were the true opposition.

Whenever a opposition group came out with a claim about Putin, instead
of arguing about the claim, people would argue about the group's
authenticity. They didn't just disagree on what was true: they disagreed
on how anyone could know if something WAS true.

Writing in the Desmog Blog, Tom Perrett runs down the history of the
Koch brothers' "academic philanthropy," showing it to be a series of
shrewd investments in in Surkov-style disinformation.


Koch executives call this "investment in intellectual raw materials"
that support its corporate goals.  Koch investments in the Mercatus
Center at GMU and the Center for Growth and Opportunity at Utah State
and elsewhere have paid off handsomely.

A quarter-century of expensively purchased scholarship has created an
epistemological chaos that support denial about economic fairness, the
climate emergency, a public sphere, and other obvious facts that are
now, incredibly, in doubt.

Perrett: "Koch funding in academia and think tanks has broader
implications for policy implementation, as state governments routinely
rely on the state university systems to provide independent analyses of
issues before the legislature and agencies, and advocacy groups use
academic findings to bolster lobbying and public campaigns."


🔥 Mr Gotcha v covid

Even if you don't know his name, chances are you've seen Matt Bors's
incredible cartoons for The Nib, especially this classic panel from his
enduring 2016 "Mr Gotcha" strip:


Its currency and fame are easy to explain: Mr Gotcha is a superb example
of the odious neoliberal idea that there are no systemic problems (or,
importantly, solutions), only individual choices.

Don't like climate change? Recycle.

Don't like monopolies? Shop indie.

Don't like inequality? Donate to charity.

Don't like racism? Don't be racist.

Don't like sexual assault? Don't rape anyone.

This framework is a recipe for despair, self-loathing and inaction, and
Bors's Mr Gotcha is the perfect avatar for it.

Four years later, Bors has brought back Mr Gotcha for a very special
covid edition:


Mr Gotcha starts off by with a reiteration  of the current right-wing
disinformation meme.

Before Bors widens the frame to include apologism for police murder.

In writing this up, I realized (belatedly) that Bors has a book of these
strips out, "We Should Improve Society Somewhat." Naturally, I ordered it.



🔥 This day in history

#15yrsago Chinese cosmetics firm harvesting executed prisoner skins

#10yrsago HDCP master-key leaks, possible to make unrestricted Blu-Ray

#5yrsago Brewster Kahle for Librarian of Congress!

#5yrsago Empty Epson "professional" inkjet cartridges are still 20% full

#5yrsago Chest-height puking toilet in a nightclub bathroom

#1yrago Penetration testers jailed after they broke into a courthouse to
test its physical security


🔥 Colophon

Today's top sources: Naked Capitalism
(https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/), Seanan McGuire

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel
about truth and reconciliation. Friday's progress: 534 words (60528 total).

Currently reading: Gideon the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir

Latest podcast: Chapter 1 of Attack Surface, the third Little Brother

Upcoming appearances:

* Keynote for Law Via the Internet conference, Sept 22,

* Writing into an Uncertain Future, Afterwords Festival, Oct 1,

Latest book:

* "How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism": an anti-monopoly pamphlet
analyzing the true harms of surveillance capitalism and proposing a

* "Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new
introduction by Edward Snowden:
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583; personalized/signed copies

* "Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime,
gender, and kicking ass. Order here:
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed
copy here:

Upcoming books:

* "Attack Surface": The third Little Brother book, Oct 20, 2020.

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*When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla* -Joey "Accordion Guy"

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