In this week's Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway takes a look at success for indie author Fiona Scott-Barrett at the Society of Authors' Awards night.
The latest Self-publishing News podcast has just dropped. Howard and I have been talking about the way different governments have responded to the AI and copyright dilemma. We have also been talking about e-readers, and whether the new Sol virtual reality e-reader is some kind of over-engineered hellscape or a return to focusing on products that do one thing well.
Awards and Cover Celebrations for Indie Authors
My favourite part of reporting the news is when I get to celebrate indie success. And this week there are two causes for celebration.
The Society of Authors runs a set of awards that has a total prize fund of £100,000. This is the time of year when it announces all the winners at once to gain each of those awards maximum attention. Many of these awards are open to self-published writers, and in the past I have had the pleasure of reporting on self-published successes like Kathleen Jowitt’s nomination for the Betty Trask.
New among this year’s prizes was the ADCI (Authors with a Disability or Chronic Illness) Literary Prize. This celebrates written depictions of the disabled experience. As a disabled writer who has written many fiction and non-fiction titles with disabled characters and themes, I am absolutely delighted to see this award. Even more so that it is open to self-published writers, as so many of us who are disabled or live with chronic illness find the systems and strictures of traditional publishing inaccessible to navigate. I’m thrilled that in the award’s first year, the runner-up is Fiona Scott-Barrett for her self-published novel The Exit Facility. The Exit Facility’s central character has Best Disease, a condition she shares with the novel’s author.
We have also seen indie legend L J Ross appear on the cover of The Bookseller to celebrate her phenomenal achievement in selling 8 million books. LJ is a tireless champion of the indie cause, so it is fabulous to see her own phenomenal accomplishments marked in this way. The link to this great news is LJ's tweet. You may or may not be able to see it, as a later story in this week's column will explain!
Twitter Restricts Number of Posts People Can Read in Bid to Push Blue Ticks
It feels like only yesterday that Twitter’s turbulent times stole the technology spotlight in this column. A lot has happened in tech since Elon Musk paid an eye watering $44bn for the social media platform. But he couldn’t resist stepping back into the news, possibly feeling the need to ramp up his time in the spotlight prior to the blockbuster MMA showdown with Mark Zuckerberg that has sent psychoanalysts and metaphor-hungry writers across the globe aflutter.
In his latest act of stochastic CEO-ship, Musk had Twitter users scratching their heads last week when they were unable to see people’s tweets. They found themselves instead facing the message “rate limit exceeded.” After speculation about server capacity, Musk stepped in to say
“To address extreme levels of data scraping & system manipulation, we’ve applied the following temporary limits: – Verified accounts are limited to reading 6000 posts/day – Unverified accounts to 600 posts/day – New unverified accounts to 300/day”
In what has become Musk modus operandi, he didn’t really clarify what this meant (did reading a post simply mean scrolling past it?), or more importantly what “temporary” might look like, but he did return to the platform to claim ironically that the tweet had set a record for view numbers.
Who pays: creators, readers, or both?
The impact will depend on how many people reach this limit. The fact that “rate limit exceeded” managed to become a trending phrase suggests that the number is far from zero. This will have consequences for people's reach. In particular, it will have consequences for people who have subscribers to their tweets.
Critically, the limit cap's key variable, a paid for verified status, isn’t about the status of people who are posting. It’s about the status of people who are reading. This makes it feel like the “you have reached your article limit” of Medium and other paid subscription sites that have a kind of freemium offering. Which means the blue tick is doing a lot of work. It already triggers better reach for writers. Now it seems it will trigger more for readers. It feels a bit of a mess, which brings us to…
How is AI Trained: The Lawsuit Against OpenAI and its Implications
It was bound to happen. The hope is that successful or unsuccessful, it will clarify a situation best described currently as a hot mess. I am not wholly convinced it will. But it will do what such things always do: make lawyers richer. The “it” in question is a legal suit that OpenAI faces over the way it used people’s words to train ChatGPT.
A law firm in California claims that OpenAI used the writings of millions of internet users for purposes to which they couldn’t have ever consented meaningfully. The suit focuses in particular upon the commercial uses to which many are now putting the results. It’s an interesting part of the debate around AI and copyright. But it is far from the complete picture. It will cover the use AI makes of the extracts and site specific content we produce on our blogs or on social media. But as a writer, I know that I am signing away certain rights when I post in that way. It has long been the case that various interpretations of the term “previously published work” in the industry has alerted us to this fact. The argument here is that we might have known we were signing away some rights, but not the rights to be used to train AI. And certainly not the rights to have commercial products based on the results.
Areas of concern will remain unaddressed whatever the outcome. Those will include AI that produces work in a specific artist's style. It will also leave parts of the public domain hazy. It is not clear, for example, what the status of material from features like “look inside” is. But any case law clarification will be at least partially welcome.The Bookseller celebrates L J Ross' 8 millionth sale with a cover spot, and other top #selfpub news stories for #indieauthors, in one quick read, by #ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway @agnieszkasshoes #digitaleconomy #publishingopenup Click To Tweet