From: Pia

I have read some of your recent Ask Nicola blog entries which support epublishing. I have become inseparable from my Kindle and imagine that if I were an author I would be inclined towards self-epublishing. Yet the demise of the recording and music industry with the growth of the web is a worrisome development as the web and reading gadgets become more common devices for exploring, sharing, and stealing content.

Have you written on the publishing industry, protecting content, or how laws fit into or should be changed to preserve ownership and would you please share the link to that writing? If you haven’t shared those thoughts, I encourage you to disclose them and look forward to reading your ideas.

Oh, under the the topic of the law, would you share the docket number or link to your immigration ruling? I don’t disagree but I am curious how you got the State or an ALJ to hold that it is within the national interest to have you live and work in the US. Does that finding apply forever? If not, what do you have to do to maintain your interesting status?

My opinion of epublishing are pretty straightforward. I believe ‘epublishing’ will soon be simply ‘publishing’, the way ‘horseless carriage’ became ‘car’. In other words, there’s no way I can encapsulate my views in one short blog post. Publishing, like the automotive industry, is vast and varied. (You might try searching this blog for terms such as digital publishing, publishing, ebooks, and so on. I’ve written about this stuff a lot.)

I love my Kindle, too. I buy and read more novels because of it. I think digital publishing will end up being very good for the industry. As I say, I think it will be the industry.

However, I loathe and abhore digital book piracy. Those who use BitTorrent protocols to share my novels are hurting me, personally and directly. To those who have made my work available on a P2P site, those who have downloaded any of same: you are not my friend. If I catch you, I will hurt you.

I earn my living from writing. When a reader downloads one of my novels free of charge, I don’t get paid. If I don’t get paid, I don’t eat (I don’t pay my mortgage, I don’t get medical attention when I need it). It’s a simple equation. Those who steal my work are killing my ability to be a writer.

As for self-publishing, I’m pretty sure I’ll end up doing it at some point, for something, but I doubt I’ll do it for any major novel. For writers like me, trade publishing is still the best route to a decent living. It’s a lot of work and expense to hire an editor, to hire a publicist, to hire a book designer, an artist, a flap-copy writer, to buy ISBNs, check the conversion platforms, sort out distribution.

If I had an out-of-print backlist, I would be finding a way to republish them myself–because all the work of book design, proofreading, getting blurbs etc would already be done. But all my books are still in print. (Though Always is currently only available as a hardcover and ebook; the paperback will be reprinted soon–though I don’t have a firm date.)

I do think some parts of current US copyright law is extreme, particularly the ‘lifetime plus 70 years’ provision. I can’t imagine a scenario where plus 20 wouldn’t be reasonable for individual copyright holders, and, say, 50 years total for corporate holders.

With regard to my immigration case, I don’t have a clue where to point you for legal information. I had no idea I’d made new law until the Wall Street Journal contacted me. (They heard about my case because it was written up in some law journal; I don’t know which one.) It all happened long ago–1994 (right around the birth of Netscape, that is, before most people even knew there was such a thing as a browser, never mind a link). But, yes, it’s a permanent decision. Unless I break one of the important rules (for example, stay out of the country for a year or more), I’ll have the right to live and work in the US for the rest of my life.

As for maintaining my interesting status, well, I’ll just have to stay sharp…