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Happy Read An E-Book Week And “Consent Or Pay” From Facebook/Meta: The Self-Publishing News Podcast With Dan Holloway

Happy Read an E-Book Week and “Consent or Pay” from Facebook/Meta: The Self-Publishing News Podcast with Dan Holloway

In the latest episode of the Self-Publishing News Podcast, Dan Holloway highlights the celebration of Read an E-Book Week, emphasizing the importance and diversity of indie ebooks available on platforms like Smashwords, encouraging readers to explore and embrace the digital reading experience. Dan also brings updates from the world of digital publishing just before the London Book Fair, including the controversial “consent or pay” program by Facebook/Meta and the significant policy changes by Gmail and Yahoo Mail affecting bulk mailing lists.

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Listen to Self-Publishing News: Happy Read an E-Book Week

On the Self-Publishing News podcast with @agnieszkasshoes, #ReadAnEBookWeek celebrations and the latest 'Consent or Pay' policy by Facebook/Meta. Click To Tweet

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About the Host

Dan Holloway is a novelist, poet, and spoken word artist. He is the MC of the performance arts show The New Libertines, He competed at the National Poetry Slam final at the Royal Albert Hall. His latest collection, The Transparency of Sutures, is available on Kindle.

Read the Transcripts to Self-Publishing News: Happy Read an E-Book Week

Hello and welcome to the last Self-Publishing News before London Book Fair.

A reminder for those of you coming that I will be in conversation with ALLi's fabulous Sacha Black on Monday the 11th at 3 o'clock, I think it's 3 o'clock, at the Novotel Hammersmith, where we will be talking about various atypical ways to market your books and to connect with an audience. So, do come and say hello to us, come and listen if you are at London Book Fair.

Also, a reminder this year, ALLi will be at London Book Fair in full force. Do come along and say hello to any and all of us.

Controversy Around Meta’s Consent or Pay Programming

So, where to start with the news this week? It has been an interesting week for tech platforms; that's probably the best thing to say.

So, one of the things I didn't cover in the column, that is nonetheless bubbling under, is the ongoing controversy over Facebook/Meta's, what's being called consent or pay programming.

This is the introduction of an ad-free, data-collection-free version of Facebook that you will have to pay for. So, there is a lot of controversy about this, that it is essentially violating everyone's privacy, it's fundamentally abusing their market position to capture data and sell it.

On the other hand, you've got people who point out that there are ad free versions of all sorts of platforms from Spotify to YouTube.

It certainly feels as though they are trying to take advantage of something. It's one of those that sort of feels wrong. Social media somehow feels different, I think, from other forms of streaming content, because this is about connecting with people, connecting with your friends, in a way that maybe Spotify, YouTube, it feels as though you are paying for the value of creative work on behalf of others, whereas Facebook…

There are lots of creative uses of Facebook, but that's by and large not the reason why many of us are there. Many of us are there, certainly I am there to see pictures of people doing what they do, climbing mountains, going for runs, eating fun meals, being in fun locations. So, that's one of the things that didn't make the news.

Changes at Gmail and Yahoo Mail for Newsletter Senders

One of the things that has been causing quite a lot of consternation that did make the news, is the change of policy at the start of February from Gmail and Yahoo Mail on their bulk mailing lists.

If you send out mailing lists through Gmail or Yahoo Mail, when you have more than 5,000 subscribers, then all sorts of things now apply to you, and you have to fulfil them or your mails are going to start landing in people's spam boxes, or you are going to lose access to your ability to send that level of mails altogether.

It's ostensibly a move to crack down on spam. So, Gmail and Yahoo Mail are aware that there is a lot of spam happening and they say they want to clean things up for their non-spammy customers to make it a much cleaner experience.

So, if you send out large volumes of newsletters, you have to show that you're not spammer and there are three things that you have to do. One of them is very straightforward; a one-click unsubscribe option. I don't think that's going to be controversial.

However, you also need to authenticate. So, you need to demonstrate you're genuine. That means setting up something called DKIM. I have to say, until I found out about this, I didn't know what DKIM was. Apparently, it stands for something called Domain Keys Identified Mail, but Gmail certainly has the tools to do this in app, as it were, as it does with the one-click unsubscribe option, and these tools are also available to people who don't have large newsletters.

So, in a way, this has led to different tools, more tools, being available to more people.

The third thing you have to do is you have to have low spam rates for your newsletter. That is to say, no more than 0.3% of your newsletters should be flagged as spam. I'm not quite sure what that involves, but basically avoid spammy content, go through those steps to authenticate yourself, and make sure you add a one-click unsubscribe option.

Even if you don't have over 5, 000 subscribers, then there is a danger that, if you don't do this, then your things are going to end up in people's spam boxes and not going where you want them to go.

I know a lot of people are thinking about moving their newsletters off Gmail and Yahoo Mail, if that's where they have them at the moment, simply to make life easier, because places like, I use MailChimp, but these sorts of other places that people use for their newsletters, they take care of all this for you. That's newsletters.

More Backlash Surrounding Findaway Voices Terms and Conditions

Obviously, there has been a lot going on in the AI world. No doubt, London Book Fair will be talking a huge amount about this and a huge amount about Spotify. I'm not going to go into too much detail again this week about Findaway Voices by Spotify. Suffice to say that the backlash to the backlash, if that makes sense, has begun.

So, Kristine Kathryn Rusch has a fabulously vitriolic post and has turned her ire at authors, in particular those authors who are celebrating the U-turn by Findaway Voices by Spotify, which saw the outrageous terms and conditions rolled back in favour of ones that are marginally less outrageous.

As she points out, they are still a lot worse than the terms and conditions we started with. So, whatever you think of the approach to what she says, her advice, which is learn about business, learn about negotiation, very wise advice and advice that is basically what I try and encourage here, which is be knowledgeable. Give yourself enough knowledge to know when something smells right and smells wrong. That matters.

Elon Musk Sues OpenAI for Breach of Terms & Conditions

Also, in the news this week, of course, talking of platforms and talking of controversy, OpenAI, who have been the sort of the bête noire of everyone, suddenly they find themselves on the wrong end of Elon Musk.

He is suing OpenAI, and he's suing OpenAI because he says they are, of all the ironic things and all the things that they would be sued for given the sort of things we've been talking about, they breached their terms and conditions.

So, when he co-founded OpenAI and invested in them, they were a company who was set up as a non-profit. So, any money they made would be ploughed back into improving things for the benefit of humankind. Then around the time that Microsoft invested $1 billion, they became a for-profit company, and the cynic in you would see that Elon Musk is upset because Microsoft have profited hugely from this when Microsoft, obviously, are another tech firm that he doesn't own.

On the other hand, you might say that a company can change its terms, change the terms of operating, and that's fine; there was nothing untransparent about the way they did it, and we may or may not like the fact that OpenAI make a profit. The fact remains that, as we have seen with Facebook and their consent or pay, large online platforms do have high overheads. They need to keep going. You might say they are entitled to make a profit, that's just the way it is. So, it'll be interesting to see, as I always say, which way the judgment goes on this.

AI-Generated Audiobook Narration Sees Opinions for and Against

The other point there seems to have been a lot about in the news this week is, the subject feels like an old subject now, just this time last year it was a new subject, of AI-generated narration for audiobooks.

The Washington Post seems to have gone full on ballistic, saying they're coming for you, so the AIs are coming for you, they're going to steal everything, and they're going to ruin everything, and you should be very worried.

Whereas, Mark Williams has, as he tends to, a slightly more balanced report on the subject and he reports on a speech by Carlo Carreño who is the audio ambassador to Frankfurt Book Fair who, the headline says it all, AI in the future of the audiobook industry, it's not either or. So, Carreño points out that there might be a role for humans.

Obviously human narrators do something incredibly valuable; this is what the Washington Post really points out, and it really says that AI narration, it's not only coming for your jobs, but it's absolutely awful.

As I'm not a fan of that argument, because things that you tend to think of as absolutely awful today, will not be absolutely awful tomorrow, and if that's the only reason you don't like them then your argument tends to not be so good over time.

So, there is a clearly a value for human narration, but there is also a value for machine narration, and we come back to the kind of figures that we are always hearing about. The sheer numbers of eBooks, in particular backlist eBooks, that don't have an audio equivalent, and if you can't afford a human narrator, or if there isn't the time for a human narrator, or if it's just unlikely you're ever going to make huge amounts of money back on these titles, but you want to make something and you want to cash in on the audio trend, then audio narration has its role there.

PassiveGuy has a really interesting take on this when he comments on the Washington Post's article, he points out that there are some people for whom the performance that's given by a human narrator really matters. There are a lot of people who listen to a lot of audio content, where after a couple of minutes you've forgotten who's narrating it; it's all about the content, and your brain just filters out the voice and focuses on the content.

I think there is a lot to be said for that.

Read an eBook Week Promotes 100,000 Indie Books

I will close by saying that this has been Read An eBook Week. Obviously, this is a Smashwords thing, it's been going for many years now, encouraging people to read more eBooks, and over 100,000 indie published eBooks have been on offer at Smashwords throughout the week.

It's a great way to start a new season by boosting people's awareness of eBook reading, and the fact that there are so many eBooks out there, many of which don't have a very large audience most of the time. It's a good way, there's still a day or so left, do encourage people to take part in it, people who might not be aware of the amazing world of indie eBooks that's out there.

Encourage them to go and get some discounted eBooks on Smashwords, discover new authors, all that kind of good stuff.

That's it for this week. I look forward to speaking to you again next week when I will be reporting from London Book Fair. I'll be telling you all about what's being said inevitably about AI, but also reporting on all the cool stuff that ALLi's been getting up to there, new friends we're making, new stories we're picking up, and new things that are in the pipeline.

So, I will speak to you then and for now have a lovely week.

Author: Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy is a novelist, nonfiction author, developmental book editor, and journalist. He is also the news and podcast producer for the Alliance of Independent Authors. You can learn more about him at https://howardlovy.com/


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