Monday, August 8, 2011

An Open Letter to the Industry

Dear everyone: please, please stop asking me to fax things.

The publishing industry gets made fun of enough for its technological prowess—or, really, lack thereof—as it is. Please let me scan documents and e-mail them to you rather than force me to rely on a fax machine that is, in all likelihood, older than I am.

While we're on the topic, please let me use e-mail, cloud-based services, and flash memory devices to move information from one place to another. There is no need for me to write a PowerPoint presentation to a DVD. There is no need for me to print something out so I can fax it to you (this is happening less frequently, but really, it shouldn't be happening at all). There is no need for me to print something out so I can mail it to you when I could scan and e-mail it instead.

I understand that you're used to paper. There are many purposes for which I prefer paper, too. But the transfer of time-sensitive information is not one of them.

Speaking of! What are we doing chasing news stories with physical books, folks? By the time we set up, print, and distribute the book in question (assuming it's already been written, which is a big assumption), the public interest—and therefore the opportunity to make a sale—has passed. E-books, I say, or nothing.

Not that I'm an unapologetic advocate for the e-book, but I think this particular realm of publishing is an area in which the Internet will almost always do better. Many topical books need to be electronic in order to get them out in a timely fashion.

All of this to say, then, that time is money, and the less we do things because it's the way we've always done them and the more we look toward more efficient ways to get our stories out there, the better off we'll all be.


P.S. It's been over two years since anyone asked me for anything on a floppy disk. Keep up the good work.

21 comments:

  1. I'm going to print our this comment and fax it to you. Does anyone have a stamp?

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  2. @ Rick: Bwahahaha!

    @ Eric: Amen from the congregation. I have two choices if you want me to fax something. Use an online fax service for $10 a month (because why? When I'm sending it over the internet?) or go to Kinko's and send it from there. Why are people making me take extra steps when email is so much easier for both the sender and recipient?

    I don't even have a landline anymore and I know I'm not the only one. And for the love of all that is holy, why are people still requesting PowerPoints on DVDs? Lots of the newer laptops and netbooks don't even have a DVD drive any more. Read the writing on the cyber wall, people.

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  3. Believe it or not, it does seem that the publishing industry is ahead of the legal world on this front. Many lawyers still love ye olde facsimile, and I swear I've met more than one senior partner type who still thinks a fax is cutting edge (as in, "We can get it to you fast, we can FAX it!") I even caught myself just this morning, when opposing counsel asked about sending me a document. "Just fax it," I said, wincing before the words were even fully out of my mouth. "Or email," I quickly added. "Please email it." When I returned to the office, the fax was waiting for me.

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  4. @Laurel, I'll be honest. I still have a landline and an ancient slimeline phone, just in case. When Hurricane Ike came through Houston three years ago, landlines were the only thing working down here.

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  5. What y'all said. And NEWSPAPERS are among the biggest offenders.

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  6. And they wonder why people call them dinosaurs.

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  7. I used to work at the 6th largest US published in NYC. In 2000, they still used Eudora. If anyone in the corporation got any attachment, the entire email system would crash. We got Outlook in 2003. Also, our heck request forms were on CARBON PAPER. Which we had to fill out using a TYPEWRITER. Until about 2004. In 2001 I rewrote the deal sheets in Word (identical to the hard copies that had been photocopied so many times they were now illegible) and retyped my boss's chicken scratchings so I could email them to Legal and keep a copy on the computer instead of a hard copy and my boss FREAKED OUT. Yes, publishing likes paper, and hates electronics. I find it fairly amazing no one has asked you for anything on a disk in 2 years. I promise, someone out there is still using them. Hm, maybe if I find that person I can sell him my 1998 laptop.

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  8. oops, that's a *check request form.

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  9. A floppy...disk??? Less than three years ago...? That makes me cry a little inside.

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  10. I have one better... my last professor had a computer hooked up to one of his instruments that took a 5" FLOPPY!! Remember those? Where the floppy disk was actually floppy??

    Yeah. He was a winner. *note the sarcasm*

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  11. Eric, you are breaking my heart.

    I’m a neophyte, I get that, but when sun spots, asteroids, and giant electromagnetic fields plus the scourge of lions, tigers and bears, distroys your systems, where will you be without a paper, pencil and stamps? I still have SASE’s from the eighties; postage due.

    Just because I have a land line doesn’t mean I’m old fashioned...leave me in my dream world for just a little longer, will ‘ya?

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  12. I work in an academic library and we've gotten really good at this, to the point where, if I'm researching agents and see one only accepts snail mail queries or something, I find myself putting them near the bottom of my desirable list. As in, I'll have to be really desperate. Electronic communication is just better all around: faster, uses less paper, and easy.

    And I've always wondered about those current event books! Knowing how long it would take to get a book to the printer and the stores, I wonder how well-written and -edited they can be if they come out while the world is still paying attention. I'd probably take them more seriously if they were e-books, since that would at least cut out a portion of the normal publication process.

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  13. I receive dozens of press releases every day, and I receive most of them twice – once in my e-mail and once on my e-fax. What are these people thinking? Well, at least with e-fax I don't get hard copies. Good thing too, since my printer has been broken more than a year and I haven't missed it yet.

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  14. A lot of industries could learn from this. The other day my insurance company asked me to fax them the letter my mortgage holder sent me. Really? No. I don't have a fax machine. The letter says call this number. Here, I'll read it to you over the phone and then you can call them. Excellent.

    I do love being able to e-mail my book and short story submissions. Save time. Save money. Save a few trees. All good.

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  15. I'm going to have to print this out, because my dial-up connection won't let me scroll fast enough.

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  16. Fax machines are getting outdated in the majority of cases. Current events print books? It depends on how impacting the issue is and how long it's likely to stay on people's minds. Some issues are so globally impacting that they are worthy of putting into print even though for certain readers' preferences they should be given the ebook alternative as well.

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  17. Floppy disks win just for looking way cooler than other forms of info storage! :D

    And I was born in 1996...

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  18. You've got a great way of communicating with the reader, a great way of making me feel like what you have to say is just as important to me as it is to you. Keep it up! idateasia scam

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