Harvard Magazine profile of Andrew Wylie

Harvard Magazine profile of Andrew Wylie

Andrew Wylie is well-known within the literary community…and has recently become better known than he was outside of it.

He’s a literary agent, but one with his own mind and style. 

In a way, he has recently broken the blockade around bookstores.  While he has in the past negotiated with the guards at the gate to let his clients enter to sell their goods, he has just taken them off the well-trodden main road and brought them through a side entrance.

He has taken well-known and prestigious books, and rather than sold the e-book rights to a publisher, placed them directly in the Kindle store.

See this earlier post for a list of titles.

This has ignited a firestorm of response. 

Who is this bold freethinker? 

Harvard Magazine has an excellent

article

about Wylie that gives you some real insight and information.

It was written before the recent deal, as evidenced by this short excerpt:

“In his personal reading, Wylie has little use for e-book devices like Kindle, although e-book rights are currently a topic of intense discussion among all publishers and agents. “We spend 96 percent of our time talking about 4 percent of the business,” he says (e-books’ current share of publishing revenue). “That 4 percent will climb slowly, and I think it will grow first for frontlist,” he continues. “I suspect that the trashier the book, the more likely it is to be converted to an e-book. You don’t have a desire to save James Patterson in your library. Those who want to keep a book for a long time will buy a physical book.”

Now, I happen to think his opinion will evolve on this.  The books he recently published are backlist, and have leapt into the top half a percent of books in the Kindle store. 

Booklovers love the books…not just the medium in which it appears (although they love paperbooks, too).  I think those that love the words adapt more easily to e-books.  If you think of a book as “that thing on the shelf”, or in some cases, “that thing in the humidity-controlled case”, you may have more trouble getting past that.

I think those who want to keep the book forever may be more likely to want an electronic file.  I feel more secure that my e-books will be able to be read fifty years from now than my paperbooks (especially mass market paperbacks of the past sixty years or so).  I know of people who have lost a library to a fire, and know that it happens with floods and other issues as well.

I think when he sees how well these books sell that he will see that it is the booklovers, the constant readers, the word venerators who are leading the way to e-books.

I found the article quite fascinating, and I suspect many of you will as well.  Of course, virtually all of you will read it in electronic form…

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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10 Responses to “Harvard Magazine profile of Andrew Wylie”

  1. Sherri Says:

    Interesting article. Wylie seems like the Scott Boras of literary agents, and I mean that as a compliment. Like Boras (a baseball agent), Wylie refuses to recognize the unwritten gentlemens’ agreements that serve the status quo more than his clients.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Sherri!

      I’m afraid my sports agent knowledge doesn’t go much beyond Leigh Steinberg…so I’ll take your word for it. :)

  2. Lisa S. Says:

    I think Wylie does have a point: since buying my Kindle last October, the only physical books I buy are those I want on my bookshelves. It doesn’t have to do with the ‘trashiness’ of the book; it has to do with limited storage space in my home. Though, I just can’t see myself buying an ebook version of a Terry Pratchett novel when I love seeing the Discworld series lining my shelf.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Lisa!

      Yes, I can see buying paperbooks as art objects. ;) If it’s a book I want to have forever, though, I want a digital file…seems more secure to me. Not just because of the decay of physical books, but because I expect to increasingly benefit from the superior accessibility of digital books as I age.

  3. becca Says:

    I’m new to ebooks and the Kindle (like, a matter of days), so how I use it and view it may change, but I don’t see my electronic book files as being more permanent than my physical books, but rather less so. If the technology changes in any meaningful way (and you know it will), the ebooks I buy today may be as permanent – and as useful – as the stack of VCR tapes I have of movies, or my audiobooks on tape. I can’t read my ebooks while the kindle is recharging (and it’s awfully slow to recharge). Right now I consider my ebooks to be disposable books, not worth shelf space.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Becca! Welcome to the Klub!

      As time goes on, I think you’ll enjoy your e-books more and more.

      I’m an inveterate book lover: a former bookstore manager with something like ten thousand paperbooks in my home.

      I’m also a tech guy going back to the days of punchcard machines. :)

      A lot of people want to compare e-books to something like VHS* tapes (I also hear 8-tracks…depends a bit on the age of the person, I think), but that’s not really a proper comparison. The issue with the VHS tapes and the 8-track tapes is one of hardware, not software. Virtually every digital file made is still able to be read. If Amazon stops supporting the AZW and Topaz formats (those are the two formats in which Kindle store books come), and no one else buys it, it basically becomes legal to circumvent the Digital Rights Management. I am very confident that we would have access to our books quickly.

      As an example, the Rocketbook was one of the first EBRs (E-Book Readers). Calibre, a free e-book management software program, can legally convert those books to .mobi (among other formats), and then you could read them on your Kindle.

      Digital is digital…it’s the hardware that becomes obsolete.

      Your Kindle should not take a long time to charge…mine typically fully charges in an hour or so. Also, you can read on your Kindle while it is charging. If it’s plugged into the wall, it’s obviously accessible. If you plug it into a computer, it will go into “USB mode”. If you “eject” it from our computer, you’ll be able to read while it is charging…I do that a lot.

      I’m guessing from what you’ve said that you are charging through USB. Different USB ports have different amounts of power…you might want to try another port.

      I’m also assuming that you have something other than a Kindle 1.

      Another thing that can make it take a whie initially is that the Kindle indexes books you buy to make it easier to search. That takes power…I’d leave it plugged into the wall overnight if you bought a lot of books.

      If it is taking a long time (let’s say more than a few hours) to charge, definitely contact Kindle Customer service…you may have a defective unit. You do leave the Whispernet off most of the time, right? That takes up a lot of power.

      I have hardbacks that are over 100 years old, but they are quite fragile. Not as fragile as my paperbacks that are only, say, fifty years old. Some of those are literally held together by rubber bands.

      If you bought an e-book from the Kindle store, your house can burn down, your town can flood, and your book is fine…you can just download it again, on to another device (if your Kindle was destroyed as well)…for no charge. If you’ve never had to replace a paperbook, you are lucky. :) I’ve had them damaged by animals, for example, and I’m quite careful with my books. :)

      You might find this earlier post interesting:

      http://ilmk.wordpress.com/2010/03/09/preserving-literature-digital-or-paper/

      If you do end up needing to contact Kindle Customer service, you can start here:

      https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/contact-us/kindle-help.html?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200316870&type=email&skip=true#csTop

      Regardless, enjoy your reading! We can check back in with each other in fifty years, and see if we have more of our paperbooks or e-books bought in 2010 available to us. ;) You don’t need to wait that long to write again, though…feel free to ask any questions you have, or to just say, “Hi!” :)

      *ETA (Edited To Add): Actually, that was funny! It’s usually Beta tapes, having lost the race to VHS in the first days of popular VCRs (Video Cassette Recorders) in the USA. I do have a Beta player, and we still have a VHS (Video Home System) player set up on the same entertainment unit as the CD player…which has largely been replaced in our use by our Roku. ;) It just didn’t click for me right away that you were talking about the obsolescence of the one that used to be seen as the survivor.

  4. becca Says:

    Hi! and thanks for the response. I have a K2; it seems to take 3-4 hours to recharge after getting the low battery message. I don’t know that calling customer service would do any good – it’s one of the first K2s that my Dad gave me when he upgraded to the Graphite, so it’s out of warranty.

    I hope you’re right about it becoming legal to break DRM when a format goes obsolete: in addition to having a lot of ebooks already, I have over 300 audiobooks from audible that I’d hate to lose access to!

    As I said, my attitude may change as I get more into the Kindle Klub – this is just the way I’m looking at it right now.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing again, becca!

      My understanding is that is it best to charge the Kindle when it is in the “middle half” (not the first quarter or the last quarter). That may be why it is shorter for me…I’m not waiting for the low battery message.

      As to the “openness of obsolescence”, I do think that’s the case, although I haven’t found a spot where it is explicitly stated for e-books for the public. This Copyright Office statement says it is legal for “preservation copies” of software for libraries and archives (it’s on page 11):

      http://www.copyright.gov/1201/docs/fedreg-notice-final.pdf

      However, I’m also quite confident that, if Amazon went away (which I think is unlikely…knock virtual wood), someone would purchase the format and support it. There may be more than a million people using .azw files already (including both Kindle users and Kindle app users), and that would be quite a market to ignore.

  5. endüstriyel mutfak Says:

    think Wylie does have a point: since buying my Kindle last October, the only physical books I buy are those I want on my bookshelves

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, endüstriyel!

      I do understand that, but I think a lot of booklovers stop buying p-books (paperbooks) at all after getting used to e-books. The only thing I get in paper now is a few magazines…and I’d love to get them in e form. :)

      You and Wylie could be right…but I think he’ll find that the books he added to the store recently are bought widely…including by people who want them forever.

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