TechCrunch columnist and author Paul Carr has written a (somewhat profane) essay in which he takes exception to recent comments of Booker Prize-winning author Graham Swift, who said about e-books in a recent radio appearance:

I think the tendency will be that writers will get even less than they get now for their work [due to the lower royalties paid on e-books] and sadly that could mean that some potential writers will see that they can’t make a living, they will give up and the world would be poorer for the books they might have written, so in that way it is quite a serious prospect.

Swift also suggested that people tend to see digital media as “just in the air to be taken” and that “purveyors of e-books” are happy to foster this perception because it means they have to pay writers less.

Swift’s comments, Carr suggests, are in the nature of an attempt to stir up interest in his latest book by inciting controversy, and Carr is nonplused that many publications seem to be taking those comments seriously.

Carr points out that most authors don’t write for the money in the first place, and realize that the number of authors who can support themselves entirely from their writing is vanishingly miniscule. And he notes that both e-book stores and publishers have taken considerable steps to prevent or fight piracy whenever they found it.


  1. “Swift also suggested that . . . ‘purveyors of e-books’ are happy to foster this perception because it means they have to pay writers less.” With the hourly increase in the number of free ebooks, I think Swift hits an important mark.

  2. How strange that anyone should think writers don’t write for money! They have the same expenses as everyone else: house, food, power, clothes, transport, etc. And for writers, a computer/Internet connection is also essential. I choose to earn my living as a writer because I love telling stories. And I do earn a living, quite a good one too, because I work hard and am professional about what I do. I know several dozen novelists, in the UK, USA and Australia, who also earn their living by writing and others who’re working hard to achieve that. So where are these writers who don’t need to eat?

  3. For all his criticism of Swift, Carr does no better a job of convincing. I note his statement: “Perhaps he’s talking about Amazon or Apple—companies whose ereaders contain more anti-piracy measures than a Somali oil tanker, making it near-impossible for readers to re-sell, loan or even quote text from their legally purchased ebooks.” That shows how out-of-touch he is with the technology, as many of us know how easy it is to de-DRM ebooks and copy or redistribute them. But mostly I think he’s being deliberately obtuse, for any dunce would know that when Swift described the “purveyors of ebooks,” his text was clearly referring to those who bought them (or found ways to get without buying them) who supported the “everything belongs to everybody” movement. Oh, yes: I originally saw the Swift comments here on TeleRead, and I don’t remember even noticing that he made the comments in an interview promoting his new book. But I suppose selective memory is a common-enough malady…

  4. Authors create the content: everything else is built on that. It’s up to the author to demand decent royalty rates, and if s/he doesn’t get them, to self-publish and receive the 70% royalty. You may sell less, but you get more for each one. See Joe Konrath’s blog.

  5. lol… Whoever thinks that most writers “get into” writing because of money is woefully misinformed. Passionate writers write because they must. They do however change genres temporarily because of money, meaning that what they want to write doesn’t sell, but that is life. If the writing bug is rooted within you, then words will form on paper (or a digital screen) even if the piece never sells…

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