What happened to it? began in 1999 as an end run around the book publishing industry. As an author, I had grown tired of groveling like a beggar before the doors of big publishers only to be ignored.

I realized that I wasn't writing big-money blockbusters, and therefore I couldn't get an agent to pimp for me.

I didn't expect to make a dollar from writing and didn't care to. I think authors should write good literature and publishers should publish quality work with motives that include money but also include the duty to disseminate ideas. Writers before the 20th century seldom did it for the buck, and the ones whose publishing prowess (not to mention whose works) I most admire, such as Thoreau and Paine and Franklin, did whatever it took to get their work out there.

So I learned something about the Internet and went on line with my stuff. Then I invited others on board. I did what I wished the big guys would do: I offered anyone a chance based on the quality of their work and then I went further: I made available free editing and free exposure on my web site.

Editing the work of others and converting it to formats that could be offered over the Internet became tedious work for me. I was no longer writing, I was publishing for others. became the publisher of one volume on paper. In fact, I believe Three Naked Ladies Playing Cellos was the first book anywhere in the world published in hard copy and digitally at the same time (2000).

As the decade from 1999 to 2009 ran its course, it became obvious that, while electronic publishing was taking off, readers weren't buying it. Not only were they not buying it, they couldn't be persuaded to take it for nothing.

Reading devices for ebooks came and went. Some had proprietary publishing formats, which tried to keep up with. Some, mercifully for us, were built around Adobe's portable document format, PDF, which is the one remaining format I still offer directly. I now publish in's Kindle format and in the iPad (“epub”) format and as well.

The big commercial publishers have tried to sell ebooks as well. But there is something askew when a paper-and-ink copy of a book costs $20 and the electronic download costs the same. (They incur a cost for the editing and maybe for the formatting - true.) Big commercial publishers have been worried about someone stealing ebooks and re-publishing them or distributing them differently without authorization. Funny, but copying machines didn't spark the same fears over paper-printed books.

There is more to come digitally, though. The technology will continue to change until something makes sense to people who like to read. But it will have to be something that can survive a squirt of salad dressing and go to the beach and be left in a freezing car and can pass from friend to friend the way a paperback book can. If you were to download a novel for $20 and not be allowed to pass it on or read it again in five years or make notes in the margins, would you spend the money?

At, I think $4 is enough to charge for an ebook. Once PayPal has taken its cut, I’m left with about $2.76 per copy, which is probably as much as I would keep from retail sales of a paper-and-ink copy. And you can download a few books free: See Kate Gardner’s Diary and the other downloads under Take It or Leave It.

I switched to a Mac computer in 2007 after 20 years during which I became an expert with MS-DOS and Microsoft, and I found RapidWeaver, an inexpensive and elegant little website design program for the Mac that makes it easier to publicize my writing separately from my other equally un-lucrative enterprises of wilderness guiding and art.

So, now, since the beginning of calendar year 2009, here's the deal. I've removed everyone else's books. I don't offer to edit or publish anyone else's. My books are inexpensive to read and pass around. I'm free to write again. And I can blog now and then when a full-blown essay or book isn't called for.

So go take a look around. And feel free to contact me.

David A. Woodbury
Lincoln, Maine