Next week I will be looking back at the year’s news, so unless anything massive happens this will be the last time I bring you tales from the cutting edge until the New Year. It has been a truly extraordinary year, but 2017 may have saved the most important piece of news till last, with the vote on net neutrality. I have tried to unpick it a little, but what it means for us is something that will unravel over the months to come.
First of all, in case you missed the breaking update to last week’s column, evidence that sometimes platforms do listen to their users. Last week we reported on Patreon’s introduction of a fee structure that would disproportionately hit its creators who use it to carve out a small income from lots of micropayments. The internet lit up, and just a few days later Patreon’s account holders received an email message with the delightfully honest title “we messed up”. So it looks as though everything is back to where it was. Except, maybe, for a little trust.
You might think that with Christmas looming, the only real news would be what kind of sales Amazon’s having, but this week was dominated by what (next week I’ll be compiling my “stories of the ear” so no spoilers) may well turn out to be the year’s most important story. The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has voted to repeal the regulations that provided for what we all know as “net neutrality”.
The video posted here explains better and more succinctly than I could what that means. But in brief, net neutrality essentially means that internet service providers (ISPs) cannot give preferential treatment to any one content provider over any other – everyone who uses an ISP’s bandwidth has to be treated the same. This decision means that ISPs could charge more to certain companies, and possibly block others altogether. For consumers this raises the spectre of costly or slow or even lack of access to services. For innovators looking to use the internet to disrupt or dislodge established players (that’s a lot of us), it means a potentially uneven playing field.
And talking of the internet, a couple of weeks ago I ran a piece about the Internet Archive and the Open Library project, and how they are welcoming indie writers into their endeavour to ensure that at least one copy of every digital book is preserved in perpetuity. This week the Society of Authors in the UK and the Authors Guild of America have also turned their gaze to the project. They found books available from some of their authors, seemingly without those authors’ permission, and have provided a template for a takedown notice for anyone who finds their book their without permission. I am, as you know, a big fan of the Open Library so I await Brewster Kahle’s response eagerly.
Indies Prizes and Wattpad’s trends
It’s good to end the year with news of another major prize open to indies. The German Indie Author Prize is accepting submissions until January 15th, and has a first prize of 3000 Euros. This is accepting entries in the thriller genre, but if you still don’t know what to write, a new study by Wattpad into trends in YA books on the platform might help you out. It appears, for example, that while zombies are still popular they have nothing on the popularity of werewolves.
Upcoming Conferences and Events
20 Books London, Feb 3-4 [London]
AWP Conference, Mar 7-10 [Tampa]
Book Expo, May 30 – Jun 1 [New York]
Digital Book World, Oct 2-4 [Nashville]