Robinson_JoyceRavid_cropIn a joint press release, representatives of the Authors Guild and Authors United have finally come out and admitted that they simply dislike innovation in the book industry.

Authors Guild President Roxana Robinson explained, “We were simply getting tired of pretending that we were really an advocacy group for writers. What a joke! We haven’t actually had authors’ best interests at heart for decades now. In actual fact, we’re considering renaming ourselves to something more accurate, like the ‘Publishers Guild.’”

Robinson explained that their real mission is to do everything in their power to roll back the clock and ensure that the publishing industry returns to its approximate status in the early 1990s. “We feel that the public advent of the Internet was a huge mistake. Not only was the ‘Eternal September’ a crushing blow to all the college students who had made the network their own, it also brought about the near ruination of publishers and bookstores as startups like Amazon were able to innovate and attract customers away, and Google was able to give customers the ability to search within books without actually having to pay the publishers for that right.”

Robinson added, “We feel innovation should be a crime, and we are fully prepared to continue fighting it by litigation, as we have in the case of Google Books.”

Authors United founder Douglas Preston echoed the same sentiments. “Far too long have outfits like Amazon been able to usurp publishers’ rightful control over book sales by catering to entitled consumers whose desire for low prices is strictly at odds with publishers’ need for more money to support their antiquated warehousing and distribution networks, as well as maintain their expensive offices in New York City. How can publishers be expected to continue their hopelessly inefficient Great Depression-era book buyback program if they are no longer able to charge outrageously high prices for their content?”

Flush with the success of their recent Amazon-bashing conference in conjunction with New America, Authors United is planning a further event in cooperation with the John Birch Society. “We plan to march on Amazon’s corporate headquarters in Seattle carrying torches and pitchforks,” Preston explained. “A good time should be had by all. Except Jeff Bezos, hopefully.”

Robinson and Preston also wanted to join with those of us at TeleRead in wishing you a HAPPY APRIL FOOL’S DAY!


  1. This would seem more funny if Teleread didn’t seem to bear a long-simmering grudge against AG and AU.

    Nor does the joke make sense. Google’s mass book scanning not only wouldn’t have made sense before a public Internet, it’d have been patently illegal. Only years of agitation about an alleged ‘right to read for free ‘ prepared the ground for stomping on an author’s right to control copying. That and a rather clueless tech media whose reporters never seem to have researched the Google Book Settlement beyond reading one another and Google’s clever but deceptive FAQ.

    Lazy, thy name is journalist. If you’re reporting on a court case, you read all the relevant submission, not just the propaganda from one side. That means the legal filings from both sides. That means friend of court documents pro or con. That means reading any settlement well enough to understand what it is actually saying. If you don’t do that, you’ve got no right to write on the topic. 99.9% of the media coverage of the Google Book Settlement gave no evidence they’d done that. It was wall-to-wall lazy reporters reading Google’s FAQ and echoing their equally ill-informed colleagues. If journalism had real standards, it’d have been gross malpractice.

    And if you actually read the original Google Book Settlement, at its core lay a much needed new technological innovation, a global book and contact registry for authors and what they’re written. The money and expertise Google would provide was perhaps the only reason for supporting the settlement. That registry, particularly the quick-and-easy online contact information, which could serve as a legitimate counter to the orphan book project. It’s still needed and something like it should be built into any revision of international copyright law. The chief failing of the Berne Convention is that it makes no provision for copyright registration.
    That’s a far more intelligent response to new technology than that of most of AG/AU critics in that dispute. Their attitude seem to boil down to “Gee, free books. I like free books.” Yeah that laziness rearing its head again.

    I might add one telling fact that the tech press never seemed to discover. The great horror of the Google Books Settlement was two-fold:

    1. It pretended the tiny little AG could adequately represent in court every author on the planet, no matter what country they lived in or what language they wrote in. If you want to attack the AG, do it for that. They were negotiating away a foreign author’s U.S. copyright without his knowledge or permission. I blame that on their lawyer.

    2. It was to be a decision by a U.S. district court and, as such, it could only apply to a U.S. copyright and thus make that alleged global library only available to U.S. residents. That’s why Google blocked availability to IP address outside the U.S. The press, typically shifts between hysteria mode and gush mode. In this case, it was in gush mode. And, typical of journalists, one particularly tech path was regarded as enlightened, progressive, and innovative, hence the gush, hence the attitude that the AG want’s to set the clock back. Never take serious any story that has as its basic premise not setting clocks back.

    The second is something that’s obvious to anyone who knows a smidgin of law, a group the clearly excluded, again that number, 99.9% of reporters. Mark Twain’s long-ago tale about reporters never knowing about what they write about was confirmed again. A U.S. court cannot overturn German copyright.

    And the ease with which tech reporters were (and continue to be) deceived by Google is nothing short of astonishing. They failed to recognize the most basic principle of all writing, the need to read and understand the source material before writing. If you don’t know, don’t say. And for Pete’s sake, never believe other reporters.

    And certainly don’t try to make humor over it. I have my gripes with the AG and AU, but it’s not that it’s failing to keep up with the times or technology. There it is laboring to ensure that authors don’t get screwed by technological behemoths such as Google or Amazon. Their idea for online author/book registration is a good idea.
    Finally, never forget that Google’s settlement was only about what Google could do with scans of other people’s books. It applied to no other organization or person. (That fact upset librarians.) Google intended to totally dominate online book scans much like Amazon intends to dominate ebook sales. It would have no competition.

    It is never, repeat never, in the interests of authors to see quasi-monopolies like those develop, least of all those that can cast aside their copyrights at will. It would make being an author as miserable as living in a one-company town and having no chance of moving away.

    –Michael W. Perry, medical writer

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