Exploring Environmentally Friendly Paper

In 2008, J. K. Rowling refused to allow a Finnish publisher, Tammi, to print Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows because the paper they used was not Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified. Although Tammi printed the Harry Potter series on recycled paper, Rowling wanted even more environmentally friendly paper at that time.

On the other hand, Scholastic, a US publisher, announced that they had purchased almost twenty-two million pounds of FSC-certified paper for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and would use at least 30 percent recycled fiber that satisfied FSC’s criteria. By printing every 784-page copy of the book this way, Scholastic raised awareness and showed the public their responsibility for the environment.

Raincoast Books, the publisher that published the Canadian edition of Harry Potter, adopted ancient-forest friendly paper at an early stage. According to the Raincoast Book’s website, the paper is not made of trees in ancient forests untrodden by humans. This is because when a forest is destroyed, it loses its ability to stabilize the ecosystem, and therefore contributes to environmental problems such as global warming.

In 2001, Nicole Rycroft, the campaign director for Markets Initiative, visited Raincoast Books and persuaded the company to use ancient-forest friendly paper. At that time, very few publishers agreed with Markets Initiative’s proposal; nevertheless, Raincoast Books decided to take responsibility for the environment and started adopting the paper. Now, 95 percent of its text-based books are printed on ancient-forest friendly paper.

Raincoast Books printed Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on paper that was 100 percent post-consumer recycled and processed without chlorine and saved 28,221 trees. The company then won the Ethics in Action Award for Environmental Excellence. Rowling also appreciated their efforts and sent the following praise:
“The forest at Hogwarts is home to magical creatures like unicorns and centaurs. Because the Canadian editions are printed on Ancient-Forest Friendly paper, the Harry Potter books are helping to save magnificent forests in the Muggle world, forests that are home of magical animals such as Orangutans, Wolves and Bears. It’s a good idea to respect ancient trees, especially if they have a temper like the Whomping Willow.” The spokesman for Raincoast Books expected that by educating the public, producers could increase innovation and reduce the cost of the paper.

Raincoast Books’ contribution to the environment might have made Rowling aware of environmentally friendly paper and led her to make the statement about FSC-certified paper. And since the Harry Potter series is read by millions of readers all over the world, and Rowling’s influence is equally huge, the publisher’s accomplishment affected the entire industry. In this sense, Raincoast Books is a pioneer publisher.

Mike McMahon, the head of book paper sales at Midland Paper in New York City, states that recycled pulp, also known as fiber, costs more than virgin pulp due to the processes it has to undergo. Nevertheless, Raincoast Books continues protecting forests, encouraged by its success and the support of consumers. Raincoast Books is also lucky because it had the right to publish the popular Harry Potter books, which provided the company with an opportunity for marketing and publicity. For many minor publishers, using expensive recycled paper is still a difficult hurdle to clear. McMahon argues that instead, “Proper forest management is the real issue.” Thus, to make environmentally friendly paper available for any publisher, the industry needs to pay attention to various perspectives. Developing cost-effective methods of recycling paper is critical. It might be time to put the idea of not using virgin pulp aside and instead explore ways to care for forests without damaging ecosystems.

Red Pens and Retcons: Changing Readers’ Experiences

There are so many things I want to talk about, and they all revolve around the question of ownership of stories and the idea of author/reader interaction. When a story has entered popular culture, how much right does the author have to do exactly what they want with the characters they created, and how much should they listen to their audience’s desires? Or even their editor’s desires?

As you’re all presumably avid readers, I don’t have to tell you that readers tend to develop intense relationships with stories. We attend conventions and visit online forums where we meet up with other fans, discuss our “headcanons”—personal beliefs about story elements that aren’t fully discussed in the canonical works—and share our fan art and fan fiction. And the voices of the fans are heard, increasingly so, as authors reach out to their audience through social media. Heck, Jim Butcher has a group of “beta readers” who give feedback on his work as he finishes new chapters.

This author/audience interaction is a tradition in literature dating back to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, at least; Doyle was sick of writing about his great detective and killed him off, but Holmes’s fans (and doubtless pressure from The Strand on behalf of their readers and their pocketbooks) forced Doyle to give Sherlock a miraculous escape from his fight on the edge of the Reichenbach Falls. In the meantime, and ever since, fans wrote their own Sherlock Holmes adventures; even Neil Gaiman has a Sherlock Holmes story, in his customary strange and wonderful style. Obviously, the author/audience relationship is extremely important, and there are a vast number of factors influencing the relationship.

But how important are the audience’s needs compared to other demands on the author’s time? George R. R. Martin best exemplifies this particular problem: his books have been adapted by HBO into a wildly popular series that is now continuing beyond its source material. Martin’s responsibilities not only include writing the sixth novel in A Song of Ice and Fire, but they also include consulting with the HBO series and running the newly refurbished Jean Cocteau theatre in Santa Fe, New Mexico. As frustrating as it is to wait five or more years between novels, there’s really nothing the fans can do but sit back and wait.

In some cases, there’s so little attention paid to the readers’ desires that entire sections of the canon are simply retconned out of existence. In the Star Wars Universe, Disney recently changed the existing literary canon—the Expanded Universe—diminishing thirty-odd years of stories to “legend” status. This allows the new films, TV shows, and books room to play, but not without a good deal of grumbling from fans. The newly-redubbed “Star Wars Legends” stories might serve as inspiration for the new Expanded Universe, and their non-canonical status hasn’t stopped them from fueling a lot of fan theories about the new films. Just google around for theories on Supreme Leader Snoke’s identity for some examples.

On the other side of that coin, there are some big name authors creating the literary equivalent of director’s cut films—”author’s preferred text”—expanding the reader’s experience by adding back in some pieces of the text they wish hadn’t gone under the red pen. Neil Gaiman created an author’s preferred text of American Gods, which is twelve thousand words longer but with an essentially unchanged storyline, and Stephen King has an extended version of his novel The Stand. Similarly, J. K. Rowling continues to expand her beloved magical world through the online game Pottermore, stories like Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and the upcoming film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. More on that here.

Author’s preferred texts are an interesting study in the question of editorial license. Taken to the furthest extreme, this conundrum gives us works such as Raymond Carver’s A Small, Good Thing. I highly recommend you look it up and read first Carver’s version, then Gordon Lish’s edit, retitled The Bath. Lish’s edit was the first published version of the story; Carver’s unedited version was published three years later. While Carver might never have become so successful without Lish’s guidance, the editor’s heavy hand is painfully evident.

So what do you think? How much right does the audience have to the story once it’s out in the world? Have you seen any particularly fantastic (or horrible) author/reader interactions? Read any good fan fiction lately?

The Battle for a Digital Pricing Model that Works Part 3: The Dark Side of the Force & A New Hope

By Rebekah Hunt
The book industry has been slower to evolve than other industries. The big retail chains, who had undercut the already wobbly industry’s prices on paperback books back in the 1980s, are now seeing the same thing done to them by the burgeoning digital market and Amazon.com. Advancements in e-reader technology such as the Kindle and the iPad make the transmission of print media in digital form far more practical and attractive than ever, but the industry has yet to develop a good standard for continuing to profit from the sales of these new kinds of media, as evidenced by the suit filed by the Department of Justice regarding ebook pricing.
Of course, where there is instability, there is vulnerability. One of the primary dangers presented by the lack of a good pricing model for ebooks is piracy. Despite the January 2010 unveiling of the ominous findings from research group Attributor, which showed between 1.5 and 3 million daily Google searches for pirated ebooks; the threat of ebook piracy may be more of a moon than a Death Star.
According to electronicbook-readers.com (see previous blog), “…there are a large number of consumers who are unwilling to pay the current price for ebooks, and they are willing to pirate those books rather than do without. Consumers who feel their needs are met are much more willing to part with their hard earned money than those who are frustrated with companies who simply no longer seem to ‘get’ them and their lifestyle.”
However, they go on to say, “What [publishers] do not realize is that piracy is only a problem when industry does not provide consumption models wanted by particular classes of consumers… The decision to allow her Harry Potter series to be distributed in electronic format is expected to net JK Rowling over 100 million in revenue and has probably cost her triple that amount due to her previous reticence toward ebook distribution.”
Rowling’s resistance to making her golden goose available in ebook format is the stuff of industry legend, demonstrating the entrenched backwardness and misunderstanding of the market that is a major impediment to the progress of book publishing. However, as stated, even Rowling was forced to capitulate to the demands of the market.
A New Hope: The Market Evolves
“The publishing industry… is where the music industry was seven years ago,” electronicbook-readers.com says. They advise that publishers adopt a similar strategy to the music industry and “…ignore piracy of ebooks on non-commercial sites and focus on producing content and connecting with their readers. If digital distributors were to start looking at digital piracy as a business deduction similar to advertising and charity donations and [focus] more on delivering content consumption models that encourage everyone to participate, they would discover a method to survive the massive disruption to their industry that technology has created.”
They encourage the publishing industry to look at the success of Netflix and Napster when developing new models for future business practices. “Such a move early in the fledgling ebook economic model,” they say, “would turn massive numbers of potential pirates into happy consumers paying monthly subscriptions who in turn become a new revenue stream to authors and distributors.”
For book publishers, ebooks integrated with other media are the way the market is going, and pricing models must evolve to meet the need. International publishing conglomerate, the Penguin Group, is extending their reach far into the electronic market. A recent article from appleinsider.com reports that Penguin expects their ebooks to grow from 4 percent to 10 percent of their sales next year, and they will also introduce a series of interactive ebooks for the Apple iPad.
Penguin CEO, John Makinson attributes this to the compatibility of the iPad with the company’s business model. The features of the iPad that are attracting publishers such as Penguin, fit the market trend toward integrating multimedia experiences with books in order to get consumers interested in books again. Makinson states that it is Penguin’s intention to take full advantage of the iPad’s capabilities, saying, “…we’ll be creating a lot of our digital content as applications, to sell on app stores in HTML, rather than as ebooks.” Makinson admits uncertainty concerning the success of these new strategies, however, reflecting the apprehension apparent throughout the publishing industry that the market is still in a precarious position.
Stay tuned for next week’s blog, the Return of the Jedi (an ebook pricing strategy that works)!
Image by Maximilian Schönherr. Used with permission under  the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.