Epublishing Bingo card from John Scalzi

John Scalzi's Epublishing Bingo card captures nearly every tedious talking point from nearly every side of the epublishing debate.

The Electronic Publishing Bingo Card


  1. The entries are generally spot on – and most of them can be directly applied to publishing under “real world” circumstances. However, I’m a little bit confused as to why the information is laid out in Bingo card form, yet the game part of the scenario isn’t further developed(?!)

    As a commercial artist I like the “ALL ART SHOULD BE FREE” square

    1. You pin the card next to your desktop and play the game whenever there’s an argument on an internet forum about ebooks or book publishing.

      Sadly, the design industry version of this doesn’t look very different…

      1. “You pin the card next to your desktop”

        Thanks.. I wan’t familiar with this online Bingo phenomenon.
        And so, the general point is simply to fill in entire lines
        like a regular Bingo game? Are these cards traded via email
        for cash and prizes? For some reason this is fascinating me.

        1. I mean, I was just offering a suggestion. I don’t think there’s a league or anything.

        2. [quote] Barney: If I can land just one of these girls, I’ll have Party School Bingo.
          [Ted rifles around in the peanut bowl, not taking the bait.]
          Barney: Come on, Ted. You’re the only one here.
          Ted: [mock apologetically] Oh, sorry! [mock interest] What’s Party School Bingo?
          Barney: Every year, Playboy releases a list of the top party schools in the country. I take the top 25 and I make up a Bingo card. All I need is Arizona Tech, which is crazy… In league play that would normally be designated a free space.
          Ted: So, uh, how many people are in on this Party School Bingo thing?
          Barney: Oh, it’s just me.
          Ted: Then what’s the point, then?
          Barney: The point is to get five in a row.
          Ted: And what do you get when you get five in a row?
          Barney: I get Bingo. [/quote]

          Think of it like Solitaire. It doesn’t really mean anything, it’s just a mildly fun way to waste some time.

          1. “Think of it like Solitaire. It doesn’t really mean anything…”

            So, kind of like life in general

    2. I know the all art should be free sounds ridiculous and well we wouldn’t end up with much or any art. However, I think we’re heading towards an all digital reproductions of art will be free type of world (if we aren’t there already and just fighting/denying it). It’s a radically different model than what we’ve had for the last 100 years or so, but I don’t think it is untenable. This isn’t too far from what you do as a commercial artist, I’m assuming. Advertising agencies still pay for art to be produced but they practically pay people to take it/copy it. I think a patronage style system could work where fans pay their favorite artists to create before hand and afterwards the art is spread around as much as possible (at least for digitally copies).

  2. The bottom left should include something about “if the ebook is more expensive than the paper book…” – maybe that counts as a value of X but it’s a pretty long-winded one :P

    1. I had a look through the other cards on the Flickr link, and I can’t say I’m a fan. Each to their own, obviously, but the meme just seems to consist of mocking arguments rather than refuting them. Admittedly most of the things on these cards are (in my opinion) laughable, but sometimes only because they’ve been distorted or truncated, and the occasional square even contains an argument that still sounds reasonable.

      I must admit, I feel like I’ve missed a point somewhere.

  3. This card works for all kinds of e-publishing.
    One of the news magazines I’m temping for is launching a subscription webpage, and I think I’ve heard all of these spoken in the cubicles.

  4. Spellcheck is so advanced these days that it can’t even recognise “recognise” or “Spellcheck”.

    If I could write a script that applies an arbitrary style standard to a work, I’d patent the damned thing and sit on it for as long as possible, while charging exorbitant fees for licensing it and hiring Microsoft’s documentation writers to write the implementation standards. When you let a machine (that can’t comprehend English) edit your work, youse gets wot youse desoives.

  5. “Can’t read it in the bathtub”
    “Nobody reads slush for free”
    “Every illegal download is a lost sale”
    “Downloading is just like shoplifting”

    1. I’m glad you added these arguments, because contrary to the post, the arguments on the bingo card are almost exclusively distortions/simplifications of criticisms consumers/readers/creators have levelled against the publishing industry for dragging its heels on e-publishing.

    2. 20 years ago, if we thought a book was priced higher than we were willing to pay, we didn’t buy it, or we haunted the used book stores looking for a copy.

      With ebooks, There are no used book stores, so we check out usenet and the torrent sites instead.

      The authors and publishers don’t make a dime either way.

  6. On the plus side, these “tired arguments” are probably higher quality than the arguments that were tired a couple of years ago. This is progress, right?

  7. Here’s a question: if these arguments are all the same tired arguments…what are the new ones? And even if there are significant new ones, why are discussions of the ones listed above so annoying for people?

  8. The bingo card: one step below the passive aggressive housemate note.

    There is absolutely no purpose to a bingo card (not talking real gambling ones here) other than to circlejerk the choir. All they say is “this is an argument that comes up a lot, which I am here presenting in the stupidest possible form (e.g. by replacing words with ‘something something’) because I think it’s wrong”. The only one that could be at all useful (via implying some argument from the author other than “No!”) are the “STOP BEING GREEDY AND ALSO WERE’S MY SEQUEL?” and “EVERYONE WILL BE AS SUCCESSFUL AS THESE OUTLIERS” squares.

    And I don’t even think these things are successful as circlejerks. Whenever I see one that I agree with it leaves a sour taste in my mouth and leaves me respecting the author a lot less. No, Sir, I am not a fan of these handwaving handjobs.

  9. Hmm, well:

    “My amazon distribution is better than any publisher.”

    “People are more willing to pay for content from their ipad than their desktop: we should capitalize.”

    “Cloud computing will inevitably bring a higher level of control over media”

    You missed a few.

  10. if there’s somehow a boingboing reader who doesn’t already know who scalzi is, he’s a blogger who gave away a book online, became famous, sold a lot of paper versions of his books, won a couple hugos. i first heard about him from wil wheaton, but then i hear about most cool stuff from wil wheaton, including boingboing.

  11. the point of the Bingo cards is that people who disagree with those arguments can roll their eyes and say “that’s straight from the bingo card” as if that immediately invalidates it.

    I notice that this card seems to be made from the point of view of an author who is very concerned about piracy. At least 20 squares seem to have a reactionary thrust, that is, the idea in the square is supposed to be a naive pro-digital argument.

    1. the point of the Bingo cards is that people who disagree with those arguments can roll their eyes and say “that’s straight from the bingo card” as if that immediately invalidates it.

      Right. But then, the whole “that’s an old tired argument” thing is, itself, a way of trying to invalidate an argument without having to respond to it.

      At best, it says that you’re tired of having to respond over and over, because the (by implication, obvious) response is so completely and thoroughly irrefutable that there’s just no point in continuing yet again.

      At worst, it means you don’t really have a good response to that argument and you wish people would quit bringing it up because it makes your unshakable certainty look more like dogma than reason.

      The bingo card just organizes all the ‘old, tired arguments’ in handy chart form, and adds an extra smugly-condescending edge by letting you shout ‘Bingo!’ and retire from the field, secure in the knowledge that these people are just wasting your time.

  12. I am Warren Fahy, who wrote FRAGMENT.

    I write to you because we are being afflicted with the virus of illegal downloads. Hence, I came up with this treatment, if not cure:


    I hope us authors can spread the word with a graphic like this that it is NOT cool to rip us off.

    Feel free to use any of these logos, if you wish. I hope you will, in solidarity.

    Best regards, and keep thrilling,


  13. 8 days ago, inspired by the stories on BoingBoing about Amanda Hocking and Amazon’s Kindle pricing strategies, I published a $3 book exclusively on Kindle. Yes, the cover was something I knocked up in PhotoShop. I can imagine I used six or seven of those bingo boxes in discussions with my colleagues!

    8 days on and I’m £5 richer than I was before. I think it needed more vampires (trick when it was a career-realted book)

    Even though it had been edited and reviewed by two professional writers, I missed seven typos or grammatical errors. Luckily a reader told me about them, and being an ebook, I could fix them in 24 hours. Never underestimate the need for an Editor.

    My latest buzzword is: ebooks are great R&D. You can test the market with an ebook and decide which books are worth publishing as a printed book.

  14. “trick when it was a career-realted book”
    should have read
    tricky when it was a career-related book

  15. @Anon
    I’m tempted to use that graphic in place of the cover art for files I download that don’t include cover art. It’s sort of like an unauthorized rip-off of the “Piracy is killing the music industry (and you can help)” logos on old cassettes.

  16. Is there another card? Because for something that supposedly covers “nearly every tedious talking point from nearly every side of the epublishing debate,” I’m only seeing the weaker, poorly considered arguments that might be made from my side. Where are the arguments about hidden costs of eBooks that force them to be priced higher than dead-tree books, or the ones about how you can’t compete with free, and that sort of thing?

    Sorry, Cory, I’m not buying it. Sure, there’s plenty of specious stuff here, but it’s weighted against the side that believes there’s no important difference between an eBook and a library book, and that smart authors can actually compete with free.

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