Holy crap. Look at this. Michael Chabon (who I think is an EXCELLENT writer, which is why this upsets the hell out of me) just signed an agreement with these jackholes to e-publish his books. His is giving them FIFTY PERCENT (yes, HALF) of his royalties for Open Road to convert his files and put them online. I am not kidding. He is giving them half of his future income off these books to do what Book Baby will do for $99, plus a $19 annual fee. (Somehow I think the electronic editions of his books will pull in more than $40 annually.)
Do you think I'm exaggerating?
Is he paying for distribution? No, he's going to be distributed on Amazon and Barnes & Noble just like everybody else.
Is he paying for marketing? Um, guys, he's Michael Fucking Chabon. He won a Pulitzer and at least two of his books have been turned into motion pictures. The only marketing going on is making sure his name isn't misspelled on the cover.
Does he realize he's being ripped off? No. Not even a little bit. In fact, Chabon describes the terms as "extremely fair and generous," and indeed they are compared to what his traditional publishers offer him. If you're used to being hit with a baseball bat, you're thrilled when someone tells you that from now on, they'll use their bare hands.*
What this reminds me of more than anything else is the scene in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay where Klayman (who is very poor and from a poor part of town) decides that, if he gets enough money to buy a bagel and lox for breakfast every morning, he will be happy--of course, he's selling off a property that makes some less-naive people very rich indeed.
I'm going to go cry now.
*I know people object when intemperate comparisons are made between established writers and slaves, battered spouses, or people with serious mental disabilities. But come on.