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Posts Tagged ‘ebook’

E-Rights and Wrongs

In Entertainment, Technology on April 29, 2010 at 10:07 am
Image representing Amazon Kindle as depicted i...

Image via CrunchBase

So, we have the Kindle and the IPad and the Nook and more e-readers coming out all the time.

And you have some big name writers making big bucks writing pieces just for these devices and you have other writers who are doing well enough, that they’re backing away from traditional publishing to focus on work to be downloaded.

So, all must be pretty good for writers as the world of publishing expands online, right? Well, not quite.

Much as what happened when ITunes started and some musicians withheld their music, complaining about the terms. And, there are some who are still keeping their music out of digital stores and there are others who have seen their music become available but are none too happy about how it’s turned out.

Well, it’s turning out to be the same with writers as it has been with musicians as authors struggle on several fronts from controlling the rights to their work to how much their going to get to well, if everything’s going to be sold online, what’s going to happen to bookstores?

The issue’s been in the news this week because after a month’s long fight, Random House has agreed to let the family of William Styron, author of Sophie’s Choice and other classics, to sell the e-rights to his books to Open Road Media.

What made this especially notable is that Random House has taken a pretty hard line when it comes to holding on to the e-rights of books.

As the Wall Street Journal reported in December, Random House CEO Markus Dohle sent a letter to literary agents asserting that the “vast majority of our backlist contracts grant us the right to publish books in electronic formats.

And in response to those who disagreed because contracts drawn up decades before e-books became popular — r practical — a Random House spokesman told the paper: “We believe Random House has the right to pblish out author’s backlist titles as e-books.”

Well, of course they do.

You would think Random House had learned its lesson — after all, it was nearly ten years ago that they lost a landmark case when it tried to get Rosetta Books from publishing some e-books.

In other cases, it’s been writers deciding to withhold e-versions of their books.

JK Rowling has chosen to keep Harry Potter off of e-readers for now and, in November, John Grisham (lawyer, that he is) made a very passionate argument about why he wasn’t allowing e-versions of his books to be sold.

“You’re going to wipe out tons of bookstores and publishers and we’re going to buy it all online,” he told the Today Show. “I’m probably going to be all right — but the aspiring writers are going to have a very hard time getting published.”

And while Grisham’s holdout didn’t last long (unsurprisingly, perhaps, there’s no comment from him or his representatives), his arguments are still valid.

So, as you download books (something I’ve done) and curl up with your IPad, Nook or Kindle or Sony Reader or whatever, keep in mind that someone created the work and that there’s a chance that person is still fighting for the ability to have some control over it.

It’s especially important when you realize there are still battles on the horizon.

Is Pricing the Point?

In Entertainment, Technology on March 28, 2010 at 10:53 pm
SAN FRANCISCO - JANUARY 27:  Apple Inc. CEO St...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

So, here we are less than a week away from the arrival of the IPad and more details are beginning to come out, including details about what Apple’s bookstore will be charging.

When the IPad was introduced, Apple boss Steve Jobs seemed to tell Walt Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal that when it came to pricing ebooks, his company would take advantage of publishers’ anger at Amazon, which was trying to drive prices down.

“Publishers are actually withholding their books from Amazon, because they’re not happy with them,” Jobs said.

Apple reached agreements with Hachette, HarperCollins, MacmIllan, Penguin and Simon and Schuster — five of the six largest publishers in the country; the company is still talking with Random House —  allowing the publishers to set the prices (believed to be from $12.99 to $14.00) with Apple taking a 30 percent commission.

Amazon, meanwhile, has clearly been taking the Apple threat seriously. Two weeks ago, The New York Times reported that Amazon “has threatened to stop directly selling the books of some publishers online unless they agree to a detailed list of concessions regarding the sale of electronic books.”

Well, it turns out that Amazon may have even more reason to worry.

The tech website Appadvice is reporting that despite all the talk of Apple sharing more, it appears not to be the case.

The site said they had seen a preview of Apple’s ibookstore and of the 32 books featured in The New York Times bestsellers list, 27 of them — including the entire top ten are priced at $9.99, the same as Amazon.

One thing that’s a little weird about appadvice.com’s report is that the screenshot they include lists the numbers 2-6 on the fiction list and numbers 1,11,12 and 15 on the nonfiction list… so something might be a little off.

Maybe part of the agreement with publishers calls for bestsellers being held at a certain price but allowing for more flexibility for backlist and other selections?

Also, pricing only seems to be part of the point as more and more books become available for Apple’s devices.

According to Mobclix, a mobile phone advertising company, books are now the most available items in the ITunes store — there are 27,237 book apps available compared to 25,238 games.

And then there’s what some publishers are doing to enhance what they are selling.

For instance, check out Enhanced Editions and what they are doing for books like Homicide: Life on the Killing Streets by David Simon and Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel.

And then there’s YouYube preview of some of what Penguin has planned.

It’s getting very interesting, very quickly.

As I said, less than a week until IPad.