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Top Authors Make eBook Deal, Bypassing Publishers

kdawson posted more than 3 years ago | from the what's-mine-is-mine dept.

Books 297

RobotRunAmok writes "Home to 700 authors and estates, from Philip Roth to John Updike, Jorge Luis Borges, and Saul Bellow, the Wylie Agency shocked the publishing world yesterday when it announced the launch of Odyssey Editions. The new initiative is selling ebook editions of modern classics, including Lolita, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and Updike's Rabbit tetralogy, exclusively via Amazon.com's Kindle store, leaving conventional publishers out of the picture. The issue boils down to who holds digital rights in older titles published before the advent of ebooks, with publishers arguing that the ebook rights belong to them, and authors and agents responding that, if not specifically granted, the digital rights remain with the author. Publishers and authors are also at loggerheads over the royalty that should be paid for ebooks: authors believe they should be getting up to double the current standard rate of 25%, because ebooks are cheaper to produce than physical editions. (Amazon pays authors 70%.)"

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297 comments

A good idea (5, Interesting)

sa666_666 (924613) | more than 3 years ago | (#33004776)

As far as I'm concerned, this is a very good thing. Any time one can get remuneration to the actual content creators instead of the middle-men is a good idea in my book. Now, maybe the prices will drop a little on these things. And in the future, maybe the movie industry can move this way too (yeah, I know, wishful thinking).

Re:A good idea (2, Insightful)

cob666 (656740) | more than 3 years ago | (#33004808)

I Agree, if ebooks are cheaper to produce then they should cost a fraction of what paper books cost. I should not have to pay 7.99 for an ebook when the physical book costs 3.99 at the book store.

Re:A good idea (2, Informative)

ClaraBow (212734) | more than 3 years ago | (#33004840)

They are selling these editions at 9.99$. It seems a bit hight to me.

Re:A good idea (2, Informative)

tixxit (1107127) | more than 3 years ago | (#33004940)

I think the idea is for the authors to get more money on a sale of their book, rather than making the e-books cheaper.

Re:A good idea (3, Insightful)

straponego (521991) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005022)

And there's plenty of middle ground for both.

Re:A good idea (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005420)

I would imagine both both can happen.

If an ebook goes for $5.99 and the author normally gets $4, $0.99 for amazon and $1 to the middle man, then these books should be $5.49. That would be $4.50 for the author and $99 for amazon.

Re:A good idea (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005066)

Classics like that.... $0.99 I'll buy the crap out of them.

Most places have them at price gouging rates.. so I buy the paper book and download a cracked epub of it.

Re:A good idea (4, Insightful)

b0bby (201198) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005246)

$10 is too high for older books; even on Amazon itself, you can get a used copy of London Fields for $4 ($0.01 + 3.99 s/h). One of these days I'll get an ereader, but it will likely not be a Kindle. Their DRM is bad enough, but the ability to mess with stuff already bought & the refusal to support epub is the final straw. I'll stick with my trusty Palm Tungsten for now, my eyes are still ok.

Re:A good idea (1)

L0rdJedi (65690) | more than 3 years ago | (#33004818)

As far as I'm concerned, this is a very good thing. Any time one can get remuneration to the actual content creators instead of the middle-men is a good idea in my book. Now, maybe the prices will drop a little on these things. And in the future, maybe the movie industry can move this way too (yeah, I know, wishful thinking).

Except in the case of the movie, who created the content? Is it the writer, the director, producer(s), or actors? Scripts change all the time and are even changed during filming, so who would get the payments? And you can't forget the cameraman and microphone operators.

Re:A good idea (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33004854)

All of the above. Just not (or at least not as much) to the idiots responsible tagging the movie with a production label and burning dvds. Distribution mechanisms are great, but there are cheaper ways now that mean the middle man is the one who's not doing the job and should therefore not be making a mint off it.

Re:A good idea (2, Insightful)

Kryptonian Jor-El (970056) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005182)

Whoever holds the copyright?? Actors, writers, directors, cameramen are all for-hire. Just like if a band hires a temp drummer, he is for hire and does not gain any of the copyrights to any songs he helps the band record, same for those rolls above. I'd assume the copyright is held by the executive producers and the movie studios, of course, and they cant cut themselves out...

Re:A good idea (4, Insightful)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 3 years ago | (#33004864)

The only thing I don't like about this is the Amazon exclusivity. (Unless Amazon offers DRMed eBooks in formats other than the Kindle's - I haven't looked into that too much, but I understand that eBook DRM is at least semi-standardized.)

Re:A good idea (4, Insightful)

arth1 (260657) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005096)

Indeed. I'm one of those who still boycott Amazon over its 1-click patent, and will continue to do so until that patent expires.
Which means that anything sold exclusively on Amazon will be a sale they won't make to me (and others who still continue that boycott), and the money is spent elsewhere, quite possibly on competitors.

For books, I much prefer the PeanutPress format (also known as ereader) for "locked" books, as the format is device agnostic, and I can read the same book I purchased on my PDA, my laptop, my cell phone or my Nook e-ink reader. I'm not locked down to one provider, and can continue to read AND transfer the books between devices even if Barnes and Noble should go out of business one day.

Why people willingly go for locked down technologies like Kindle and iTunes, I'll never understand. Is it just because of the hype?

Re:A good idea (1)

mark72005 (1233572) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005260)

the Kindle dynamic seems quite similar to the iPhone dynamic.

Re:A good idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33005288)

I'm the one person who still boycott Amazon over its 1-click patent

There, fixed that for you ;)

Re:A good idea (4, Informative)

Eponymous Coward (6097) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005314)

Why people willingly go for locked down technologies like Kindle and iTunes, I'll never understand.

Then I'll explain it: convenience. Kindle and iTunes work and are affordable.

The Kindle software group has done a decent job getting their reader software on a bunch of different platforms. Install the software and your library shows up.

iTunes is mostly selling MP3's these days and it doesn't get much safer than that.

Once upon a time, books were expensive and well made. These days, they are cheap and start yellowing before you are done reading them. Many publishers have even started using crappy paper for hard covers. As a result, I've started looking at books about the same way as I do a magazine. Read and toss. eBooks hang around longer on my hard drive (or in my Kindle library), but I don't have any real attachment to them.

I can see if you are a physical book collector or like to maintain a collection, eBooks will seem stupid. To each his own.

Re:A good idea (4, Informative)

Eponymous Coward (6097) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005342)

Ack! I said MP3s and I really meant to say unencumbered files. I guess in my mind the two are equivalent.

Re:A good idea (2, Insightful)

hgriggs (33207) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005422)

They go for it because of the convenience. You might have other options open to you, but regular folks just want to click a few buttons and have the book on the device and ready to read. They don't care about DRM or patents or rights or morality. They just want the book there, and they don't want to have to think about it, or go to any extra effort to satisfy someone else's views on right or wrong.

Re:A good idea (1)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005148)

You can read Amazon's books on the iPad; it's too bad that reading books on this device is a rather poor experience compared to proper e-ink. And I don't want a Kindle and its lock-in with Amazon (and a keyboard... seriously, on an e-reader???) That's why I too was disappointed about this announcement... Most publishers and distributors are still utterly clueless about e-books (some won't even sell them overseas, what's up with that?), and a few like B&N and Amazon are large enough to play the market on their own terms.

I only buy DRM-free e-books, or ePub/PDF with Adobe DRM, as long as the tool that lets me strip the DRM off continues to work. One of the publishers who do e-books well is O'Reilly; they offer a variety of DRM-free e-book formats. But so far I've been rather disappointed in the rest of them.

Re:A good idea (1)

david_thornley (598059) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005208)

I bought a Nook, which serves my eReading needs nicely. If authors/publishers don't want to publish in a form I can put on my Nook, well, there's plenty of stuff on the Nook I haven't read yet.

Re:A good idea (1)

fredjh (1602699) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005382)

Yeah... we have Nooks, too; it would seem that a publisher that actually is working on behalf of authors would get wider distribution than just Amazon, but I least look at this as a step in the right direction...

Unfortunately, all it means is that publishers will saddle make authors sign contracts giving up "e-rights," too; probably far too few authors will be able to negotiate out of that one.

I'm still looking forward to being able to get textbook style books (like all my programming books) in e-form....

Still, it's a good baby step.

Re:A good idea (1)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005442)

Feh. Until Amazon stops dealing with DRM I won't even bother. That and their ridiculous $10 per eBook pricing. But this is definitely good for the authors.

Re:A good idea (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33005056)

this is a very good thing. Any time one can get remuneration to the actual content creators instead of the middle-men is a good idea in my book.

They're still using a middleman (Amazon) and it looks like they're going to have an exclusive deal with that one single middleman. So instead of multiple middlemen having to compete to offer them the most remuneration, there's just one.

Worse, this particular middleman has a limited market for the books; these files will only be readable on Amazon products (rather than say, text files that anyone can read on anything), therefore the authors will only be selling to a fraction of the market that they could have had.

If you want remuneration to go to the authors then I would have expected you to say this is a disaster, rather than a "very good thing."

Maybe you're right in a long-term strategic sense, though. If the authors give a Fuck You to their dead-tree publishers and get away with it in court (backed by Amazon's deep pockets!), then after the retarded sales over the next two years, when the Amazon monopoly expires, a much more competitive/low-margin publisher market can develop. That's when the authors will be able to make some money.

Re:A good idea (3, Informative)

jgagnon (1663075) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005338)

You realize that Amazon has a Kindle reader on many platforms, like the PC, Kindle reader, iPad, iPhone, Mac, and Linux... It's not like you have to buy a Kindle device to read the ebooks.

Re:A good idea (2, Insightful)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005190)

It's only a good thing because they're not bound by a publisher, so they can further license their book rights. Kindle books are a tyranny.

Re:A good idea (1)

mark72005 (1233572) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005226)

I don't like hearing of anything of value becoming exclusive to one format or platform, personally.

Re:A good idea (2, Interesting)

rwven (663186) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005318)

I'm less concerned with the prices dropping and more concerned with passing more of the benefit straight to the person who deserves it. Publishers, in general, are simply too greedy and controlling.

Good! (5, Insightful)

rotide (1015173) | more than 3 years ago | (#33004816)

Publishers, whether it be of music, books, etc, all seem to have this idea that they are entitled to more of the profits than the people who actually _created_ the work.

Now, in the case of physical items, such as printed books, etc, there is the issue of mass producing it, distribution, deals with resellers, etc, etc. I can see where merely _creating_ the original can potentially pale in comparison to the work it takes to actually make/move/sell the item.

But, in the case of digital distribution, it takes next to nothing to make after the initial eBook/PDF is created. Merely the cost of duplicating those bits which equates to a tiny amount of electricity and then a little bit more plus bandwidth to push the item. Pennies. Sold with a _heafty_ profit margin.

Why would a publisher need to take all this profit? Or even a large percentage? They have next to no costs associated with the make/move/sell aspect of digital distribution. Sure, some guy at the end of the road, such as Amazon, needs an online storefront to actually make the sale, but beyond that these things are pretty much on par with Star Trek Replicators. Poof! another copy! Poof! Ten million more!

Damn straight the creators get the majority of the cut on this form of media/distribution. No need for presses, warehouses, massive shipping requirements, shelf space, etc, etc, etc.

Re:Good! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33004904)

so in your idealized world, who does the marketing?

Re:Good! (2, Funny)

Councilor Hart (673770) | more than 3 years ago | (#33004970)

mouth-to-mouth review sites Does a good product even need marketing? Or is marketing just to make you buy crap you didn't even want in the first place.

Re:Good! (1)

Haffner (1349071) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005232)

There are a couple reasons to market a product: 1) The product will not be (as) successful on its own, or 2) To raise awareness of the product. Most marketing spans both categories, and campaigns that fall only in one camp are almost always in choice 1.

Re:Good! (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#33004976)

In an ideal world there is no marketing.

Re:Good! (3, Informative)

GreyyGuy (91753) | more than 3 years ago | (#33004998)

Coward, most of the time (unless it is a big name writer) the person doing the marketing is the author themselves.

Re:Good! (4, Interesting)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005008)

Seems to me that the literary agents are already doing marketing for their clients to publishers, for ebooks they could take the same cut they are now and go right to the distributor. "Hey Jeff baby, I got this book that'd be perfect in eBook/PDF for your Kindle and bring you loads of moolah. Lets do lunch."

Re:Good! (3, Insightful)

IICV (652597) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005404)

Well that's the other thing - it costs almost $0 for Amazon (or anyone with any sort of real IT infrastructure) to publish an eBook. They don't have to gear up a print run, they don't have to haggle for commercial shelf space, they don't even have to pay shipping - all they do is put a 1 MB file in their multi-petabyte storage cloud, make a page based on that one template they've been using since 2000, and set the price. Every cent they get after doing that is almost pure profit.

At that point, Amazon would be stupid to not publish every eBook they can get their hands on.

Re:Good! (2, Informative)

Local ID10T (790134) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005024)

so in your idealized world, who does the marketing?

Ideally? No one does. Social networking and word-of-mouth is all that is needed.

Realistically? The retailer does most of the marketing while the author does a smaller portion themselves.

Re:Good! (2, Informative)

straponego (521991) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005062)

Marketing? I don't think I've ever bought a book I've seen an advertisement for. In my idealized world, nobody does the marketing.

Re:Good! (5, Insightful)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005220)

Have you bought a book off of a big-chain's shelf? There's heavy marketing to get books on those shelves...

(Just because marketing isn't to the final consumer doesn't mean it doesn't exist.)

Re:Good! (2, Interesting)

Wireless Joe (604314) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005078)

In this case, I'm assuming works like Lolita, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, etc. don't need marketing. For new authors, the huge up-front costs of advances, binding, distribution, etc. are gone (for digital distribution), reducingt publishing houses to simple marketing. If you're a new author, you just hire a marketing firm, which will not demand 75% of the profit, and distribute via Amazon or other no/low cost model.

Re:Good! (1)

tibman (623933) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005250)

Books are marketed? I have never seen any of the books i buy in an advert or promotion. Usually word of mouth or i pick up each book and read the summary.

If i like an author, i buy all their books until they die. You hear that Jack McDevitt and Alastair Reynolds? Keep writing and i'll keep buying.

Re:Good! (1)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005310)

so in your idealized world, who does the marketing?

Interesting that you should mention this...

I don't check any newspaper's best seller list. I don't generally read any publications that really feature book reviews. I generally skip over the book reviews here on Slashdot. With the exception of a very few books that actually show up on TV commercials, I have basically no idea what books are out there.

So, I'd suggest that if publishers are currently responsible for marketing their books, they're doing a crappy job of it.

Generally I find the books I want to read through word of mouth (or word on blog) advertising.

I'll see somebody here on Slashdot mention something that sounds interesting, and I'll go look it up. Or somebody I know will tell me that they just finished reading something good, and I'll go look it up.

Ever since I bought my nook, I've been subscribed to the Barnes & Noble Unbound Blog [barnesandnoble.com] RSS feed. That's their nook/ebook-centric blog. There's some genuine advertising for various ebooks... New releases and things like that... But they also give away an ebook every Friday. Frequently it's something I'm not very interested in. But I've picked up more than a few free ebooks and found them quite entertaining.

One such title was Already Dead [barnesandnoble.com] . This is the first book in a series, and was being given away free for a while. I picked it up, read it, and wound up buying more of the series.

So, I'd suggest that if you're turning out halfway decent books, you don't really need a marketing department to help you sell them.

Re:Good! (0, Troll)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#33004954)

Well, it's not a surprise. Do you know what the markup is at a clothing store on those designer jeans or any suit or dress, etc?

Here are the numbers: anything at all did not cost the store more than 20 dollars. In fact $20 is the highest price that a store would ever pay for any dress or any single piece of clothing.

A cashmere sweater cost you $350? It cost the store $14.

Of-course I am not talking about sable fur coats, that's a different purchase price, but it's not thousands of dollars either.

And that's the way the cookie crumbles.

Re:Good! (1)

Haffner (1349071) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005346)

This pricing model takes into account the fact that a clothing store must by a LOT of clothing it will never sell. It must offer pants ranging, say, from 30-42 waist, and 28-36 length. This by no means covers the entire market, and even with just even sizes, you are looking at 35 different types of pants. This doesn't account for style changes, either: most clothing goes out of style twice a year (I think?). You are now talking about a product that will likely sell below 50% of its volume. Now, there is still much profit to be had, but its not $80 per pants * $ of pants - $10 cost * # of pants. Its $80*#pants*.35 - $10*#pants.

Oh yeah (1)

zoomshorts (137587) | more than 3 years ago | (#33004980)

Non-Creative people are only hired thugs with a protection racket.
Artists should have realized this from day one. My feelings are, despite crappy karma,
are if the creator of the work does not receive 90 percent of any copyright
infringement suits monies, then it is a protection racket. A finder's fee of 10
percent MAY be in order, but ONLY if RIAA et al put up the money for the
prosecution of the infringement, THEN they are entitled in a small finder's fee.

OPYN

Re:Good! (4, Insightful)

Hijacked Public (999535) | more than 3 years ago | (#33004984)

I don't see where entitlement is involved in any way. Publishers/distributors offer a set of terms to which a content creator can agree or not. There is no 'why' or any balancing of who contributed what, just terms freely offered and freely accepted by the two parties involved.

You could argue that prior to widespread digital distribution there was no practical way to distribute content on large scale without entering into an agreement above, but that is just acknowledgement of the value that the distributors are offering in their contracts.

Re:Good! (2, Insightful)

rotide (1015173) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005082)

Of course, if you sign your rights away to the digital version of your work, it's theirs. Not arguing that point in any way. But for those that haven't explicitly signed away any rights/privileges/licenses to their digital versions, it should be theirs.

No one can say that they have some implicit right to your version of work that isn't already covered by a contract. It just doesn't work that way, and rightfully so.

Re:Good! (5, Insightful)

butterflysrage (1066514) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005178)

Problem with that is good old fashioned price fixing. "We will give you 20%, nothing more", next guy says "We will give you 20%, nothing more" third guy says.... well you get the idea.

For a physical book, you can not do any serious volume without signing on to a major publisher, and they have you by the short hair (and they know it) because they have total control over the market.

Signed
A "slightly" bitter author

Re:Good! (1)

viking099 (70446) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005308)

That and publishers aren't exactly forthcoming about their payments to authors, and most won't easily grant the author audit rights to the books.

So now you've got a content creator who signs away their creation to a company who then markets it, takes all the money, then tells the author "trust us, we won't let you down." If you don't have a lot of market clout (like Stephen King) or market savvy (like Piers Anthony), you're going to have a long row to hoe to get fully and fairly compensated.

In Soviet Russia... (4, Funny)

Biff Stu (654099) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005012)

The author pays the publisher.

Wait a minute! That's how it works in academia.

Re:In Soviet Russia... (2, Funny)

zill (1690130) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005174)

I new it! The entire school system is a commie conscipcy!

You people may mock me for dropping out of high school, but I was right all alone!

Re:In Soviet Russia... (4, Funny)

Haffner (1349071) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005362)

but I was right all alone!

There's a lesson in here somewhere...

Re:In Soviet Russia... (2, Insightful)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005266)

Have you taken a look at academia lately? This is hardly news. ;)

Re:Good! (2, Interesting)

ergrthjuyt (1856764) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005074)

all seem to have this idea that they are entitled to more of the profits

Just a small nitpick: taking a larger share of gross revenue != more of the profits. Legitimate expenses such as editing and marketing come into play. There isn't anything I know of that indicates that publishers are getting more of the actual profits. Otherwise I agree with your assertion.

What I do find interesting is how closely related all of this is to music piracy and DRM. Everyone on slashdot seems to think it is a crime to want to sell music with drm, and conclude that the artist deserves to be pirated for such an offense. However, I don't see that argument being made here with respect to ebooks.

The drm and copyright problem is more sinister and nuanced than most people realize. Many people argue that music artists shouldn't have the right to sell their music, they should give it away for free and perform live to make their livings.

What would the book authors do?

Re:Good! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33005256)

Book authors would get people to pay for the creation of new books, rather than the copying of new ones. If you like the work of an author enough, you could pledge or donate an amount of money earmarked toward a specific book you want the author to write (like, say, the next in a particular series or universe). That's also an option for musicians; touring isn't the only alternative model. The author can also sell special edition-style offers. There are options, and some innovative authors are actually trying them.

Re:Good! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33005306)

Become playwrights?

Re:Good! (4, Informative)

rwv (1636355) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005132)

They have next to no costs associated with the make/move/sell aspect of digital distribution.

Devil's Advocate here. Publishers are entrenched in the front lines of the multi-Billion dollar literature industry. They pay graphical artists to come up with book covers that reflect the nature of the book. This is a cost that does not go away when transitioning to electronic distribution. They pay copy editors to refine the style and grammar of a manuscript. Authors actually make many mistakes while writing their stories... and it would be a shame to sell thousands of copies where the word "teh" pops up three or four times. Marketing and advertising costs... whether through new or traditional media are significant. Though, even using new media, Facebook pages don't create and maintain themselves. It take one or two full time staff to properly drive eyeballs to the advertisements so that sales can be made.

I'm not arguing that publishers aren't charging too much. I'm just pointing out that their role is not completely diminished because of a shift from print to digital.

Re:Good! (2, Informative)

butterflysrage (1066514) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005264)

They pay graphical artists to come up with book covers that reflect the nature of the book
sometimes, often it is paied out of the money they would have given to the author

They pay copy editors to refine the style and grammar of a manuscript.
HA! Maybe if you are JK Rowling... everyone else has to have their own editing.

Marketing and advertising costs
Again, usually either non existant except for extremely popular books (*twitch* Twilight *twitch*), or fronted for the author to be paid back later out of their sales.

The majority of actual costs publishers have to deal with are getting dead trees to print the book on, and getting the physical books to stores.

Re:Good! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33005230)

Now, in the case of physical items, such as printed books, etc, there is the issue of mass producing it, distribution, deals with resellers, etc, etc. I can see where merely _creating_ the original can potentially pale in comparison to the work it takes to actually make/move/sell the item.

If you consider the editing, proofreading, etc.. to be part of the "book" itself, then yes, the physical distribution a large portion of the expense. There are other costs though. Like a movie, books need to be promoted. Authors are put on tour, posters are sent to bookstores, copies are made available to reviewers. All of this could potentially go away if everything is electronic and authors will make more. There are some legal costs too. In some cases lawyers need to read the book. The publisher is usually protected because of some very lengthy agreements, but could be liable in certain situations.

There are downsides though.

One of my favorite pasttimes is to wander through the bargain aisles at the local bookstores. All these remainders are deeply discounted so I can pick up books for $2/$3 apiece. With all-electronic versions there won't be many remainders. Sure, they might discount the electronic versions, but based on a quick browse through the Kindle catalog, I don't see this happening.

Re:Good! (1)

Danathar (267989) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005262)

Actually it's the whole idea of "Publishing" that is in danger. If there is a method of getting your work directly to the masses without the slimy middleman (or maybe a middleman that wants less money) then I'd guess authors want it.

Re:Good! (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005268)

Now, in the case of physical items, such as printed books, etc, there is the issue of mass producing it, distribution, deals with resellers, etc, etc. I can see where merely _creating_ the original can potentially pale in comparison to the work it takes to actually make/move/sell the item.

Please write me a good fantasy or scifi novel. See Stephen R. Donaldson (The Gap), or Mark Chadbourn (Age of Misrule). See others as you see fit.

Re:Good! (3, Interesting)

butterflysrage (1066514) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005322)

Now, in the case of physical items, such as printed books, etc, there is the issue of mass producing it, distribution, deals with resellers, etc, etc. I can see where merely _creating_ the original can potentially pale in comparison to the work it takes to actually make/move/sell the item.

Obviously you have never written a book. My husband has been working on his fantasy novel for 10 years, tweaking it, changing it, improving it. Find me a single publisher that would spend 10 years developing the marketing or infrastructure to sell a book

Re:Good! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33005424)

What about editors, copy editors, layout designers, artists (cover and interior), typesetters (yes, even with eBooks), and proofreaders?

I don't want 10 million copies of someone's piece of crap work that's never seen a competent editor. I don't want Sara (or is it Sarah? Or Sera?) having heer eyes change color (colour?) every three pages. I don't want your cliched ending that a good editor would have detected. And if office workers can't understand that comic sans is a bad font, what makes you think the average author will? And, yes, I do kinda judge a book by its cover (or thumbnail). It lures me in at the very least.

Publishing isn't just about putting ink on paper. Publishing is part of the refinement process. Good editors are worth almost as much as good authors. They push and prod an author to create something better. They don't just check for periods and commas. They make sure characters stay, well, in character. They spot rough spots and send it back for revision. They pull diamonds out of coal.

I'll probably get flamed for this, but book publishers aren't anywhere near the level of evil as music publishers. They actually add some legitimate value to the process. And even some of the more intangible values - like connections with existing authors and reviewers who can read a book and provide blurbs - help a book sell.

Then again, actual authors tend to have a way with words and say all this much better... http://www.tobiasbuckell.com/2010/01/31/why-my-books-are-no-longer-for-sale-via-amazon/

Re:Good! (2, Interesting)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005446)

Because so much has went into the *promotion* of these authors back when they were nobodies. It's real easy for a writer to go indie after he/she has become famous. But they forget about those early years when the publisher/newspaper/studio was taking a chance on them, and helping to promote them. Seems a little unfair to dump your publisher after you get the fame that they helped you achieve. It would be different if these authors has *started out* as indies.

IANAL, blah blah (-1, Troll)

qoncept (599709) | more than 3 years ago | (#33004822)

The issue boils down to who holds digital rights in older titles published before the advent of ebooks, with publishers arguing that the ebook rights belong to them, and authors and agents responding that, if not specifically granted, the digital rights remain with the author.

This looks like a retarded money grab and nothing more. If the author's are so sure they retain "digital rights," why doesn't one of them post a book the publisher still has the rights to, in its entirety, on a website and see what happened.

Publishers and authors are also at loggerheads over the royalty that should be paid for ebooks: authors believe they should be getting up to double the current standard rate of 25%, because ebooks are cheaper to produce than physical editions. (Amazon pays authors 70%.)"

This whole thing stinks of a bunch of whiners that aren't going to be happy when they realize they can't get it both ways. They love the money they get up front before they even start writing a book, but complain they aren't getting paid enough after it's printed. You don't have to fight -- choose one way or the other.

Re:IANAL, blah blah (5, Informative)

russotto (537200) | more than 3 years ago | (#33004918)

This looks like a retarded money grab and nothing more. If the author's are so sure they retain "digital rights," why doesn't one of them post a book the publisher still has the rights to, in its entirety, on a website and see what happened.

Short answer: They've already done so, they got sued, and the publishers lost.

Random House's standard contract specified they had the exclusive right to sell the works in "book form". The authors asserted, and the courts agreed, that "book form" did not include electronic rights.

Re:IANAL, blah blah (1)

DMiax (915735) | more than 3 years ago | (#33004920)

This looks like a retarded money grab and nothing more. If the author's are so sure they retain "digital rights," why doesn't one of them post a book the publisher still has the rights to, in its entirety, on a website and see what happened.

Is this not what they just did? At least for the dead ones I doubt they have books without a publisher. Maybe you are just angry that they still want money, but you cannot blame the middleman?

Re:IANAL, blah blah (4, Informative)

vajrabum (688509) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005020)

Not only are you not a lawyer you don't know much about contracts or publishing rights either. Publishing rights are sold on a country by country basis and format by format basis. If you sell a book to be marketed in the US your publisher has no right to sell it in the UK or Australia unless they negotiate that separately. Same goes for audio books. So those advances are paid for the rights that were negotiated in the contract. Given that's the case then why would you think a pre-digital paper publishers have the right to publish digitally unless they've negotiated it or you work for a publisher who's interested in spreading FUD? The older contracts don't include those rights. Unless a contract is written specifically to allow future changes then things don't get grandfathered into a contract. They have to be renegotiated.

What took so long? (2, Interesting)

Rivalz (1431453) | more than 3 years ago | (#33004828)

Seriously I understand publishing a book in multiple languages and in multiple countries is a big deal but they should have saw this one coming for a long time now. If you are the middle man and technology rears it's ugly head prepare to be marginalized or bypassed completely.
I cannot wait for the day when this happens to Lawyers.

Re:What took so long? (2, Insightful)

easterberry (1826250) | more than 3 years ago | (#33004930)

You mean when we invent artificial intelligence? (in before lawyer intelligence joke) Because lawyers aren't middle men. They are paid exclusively to research, think, debate, create documents and do other things that a computer can't. Lawyers aren't middle men in any way shape or form.

Re:What took so long? (2, Informative)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005094)

What took so long was that the publishers asserted that they had the rights to e-book along with the rights to phyiscal books even when the contracts explicitly mentioned "book form" but did not mention electronic format. The authors disagreed and one or more took a publisher to court over it. This is how long since the court case was settled in the authors' favor for some organization to work out a deal for a large group of authors.
Please be aware that the publishers do own the e-book rights to most more recent titles. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the next little while. Book publishers have never taken as big a chunk of the money made on books as music publishers, so their busness model is not as clearly outdated as that of music publishers (meaning that book publishers may still have time to figure out how to continue to turn a profit in the electronic distribution age).

Re:What took so long? (2, Insightful)

easterberry (1826250) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005150)

The irony that the book publishing model is less dated than than the music industry publishing model is staggering.

Re:What took so long? (1)

kevinNCSU (1531307) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005138)

The middlemen in the law is the judge/jury and getting rid of them would result in the lawyers on both sides just coming to your house with a baseball bat and forcibly taking your money =P

yay (2, Insightful)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 3 years ago | (#33004838)

The digital revolution will continue to cut out the middle men until everyone has to actually produce something to make a living. RIAA, MPAA, and publisher parasites will no longer run the show.

Are any of the authors alive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33004844)

Or is it just their estates, or rather, the agency in charge of them?

Re:Are any of the authors alive? (1)

Guido von Guido (548827) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005128)

Or is it just their estates, or rather, the agency in charge of them?

From TFA, living authors include Philip Roth, Salmon Rushdie, Martin Amis and VS Naipaul. I would guess that most of the contracts for the books were signed before publishers gave any thought to digital distribution.

Guess who's next! (3, Funny)

Haffner (1349071) | more than 3 years ago | (#33004860)

Hey, look at this RIAA! This is the record label industry getting murdered, and everyone else benefiting!

Re:Guess who's next! (1)

AmazinglySmooth (1668735) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005130)

But MP3 has been available for years. Unless Apple (or some other MP3 player company) creates is own label, it won't get distributed for $$$.

Sounds like valid argument (4, Interesting)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#33004862)

>>>"with publishers arguing that the ebook rights belong to them, and authors and agents responding that, if not specifically granted, the digital rights remain with the author."

This is the same argument that the music industry made with DVDs. The songs were licenses for TV and Videotapes, not for dvd, and therefore the music industry demanded more money for each song used. Likewise I think it's reasonable to say: the authors only licensed for books and audio, not electronic editions.

Go Diego, Go (1)

stanlyb (1839382) | more than 3 years ago | (#33004876)

At last, the trend is turned, and is going fast in the right direction. Who wanna to keep 1000 "normal" books in his house??? (1000 is the number of books that i bought during my still short life)

I'm not Shocked (4, Interesting)

jchawk (127686) | more than 3 years ago | (#33004898)

To be honest how can anyone be surprised at this? When books were set free from paper and placed onto the Internet it was only a matter of time before authors decided to cut out the publisher. They no longer have a need for them. Publishers should get wise and start to provide real value to the authors. If I write a book and do not require your editing, marketing or printing services why exactly do you expect to keep 75% of the sale price?

Give it time and most large authors will just sell their ebooks directly via their own websites.

This is exactly what the Internet is supposed to be about. Giving the little guy the chance to eliminate the need for the big guy.

Cheers for these Authors!

Re:I'm not Shocked (1)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005044)

Here here!

Re:I'm not Shocked (3, Interesting)

jahudabudy (714731) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005086)

I don't think ebooks will do away with physical books (and I certainly hope not). The difference between reading an ebook and a physical book is so great as to make them different products in my mind. I would guess that ~75% of books I have read electronically, I ended up purchasing physical copies for the re-read.

Re:I'm not Shocked (1)

b0bby (201198) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005418)

The difference between reading an ebook and a physical book is so great as to make them different products in my mind.

Really? I have read, conservatively, 150+ books on my various Palms over the last 10+ years. Most were novels in straight text form. Only a few, which had illustrations etc which were integral to the story, did I bother to get in paper form. A great story draws me in and I quickly lose interest in the delivery medium. Paper is nicer than my Palm's screen, and I have read some books flipping back and forth between the Palm & the book left at home, but in general, for me, if the writing is good I don't care what I'm reading it on. And pretty much these days, if the writing *isn't* good, I don't bother reading it. Millennium Trilogy excepted...

Re:I'm not Shocked (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33005112)

Or trade one big guy for another - wait 10-15 years until amazon, apple get a monopoly and see if they still pay 70% to the authors.

Re:I'm not Shocked (0)

nyctopterus (717502) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005134)

If I write a book and do not require your editing, marketing or printing services why exactly do you expect to keep 75% of the sale price?

Ah, but you're probably still going to require editing of some sort, even just to catch typos! And really, I expect having a considered and professional opinion on your writing structure and clarity probably does result in higher quality work. So I suspect a lot of writers are still going to want editors. Marketing, in a world where every man and his dog can publish their books to the same platform, is going to be absolutely crucial.

You save printing costs, but depending on the sort of book, you may want to get professional designers on the job.

Give it time and most large authors will just sell their ebooks directly via their own websites.

This is exactly what the Internet is supposed to be about. Giving the little guy the chance to eliminate the need for the big guy.

I very much doubt that. If that was going to happen on any sort of scale we'd be seeing it already. No, they are going to have to go through some sort of distributor, like iBooks or Amazon or similar, which have a ranking/rating system of some sort and a standardised interface.

I suspect the bright new world of eBooks for everyone from everyone will actually look disappointingly similar to the one we have today.

Re:I'm not Shocked (1)

rwv (1636355) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005276)

If I write a book and do not require your editing, marketing or printing services why exactly do you expect to keep 75% of the sale price? [...] Cheers for these Authors!

This is why Amazon.com offers authors the chance to sell their books for a 70% profit (I think that's *after* the cost of printing is factored in). It's been a long time since I've looked at their BookSurge service, but the economics strongly favor authors.

That said, my book has been sitting in the "review process" for the last two years. This stuff takes a lot of time that can't necessarily be dedicated by authors who need to feed themselves while their labors of love wait to turn into hard profits.

Ultimately, though, when my book is well-edited I'll be publishing with Amazon.com because I'm not a career-writer who's concerned about signing with a major publishing house for the long term benefits (exposure, marketing, advertising, and the like) and shopping my one manuscript to the traditional houses doesn't really suit my fancy for the small advance that I'd get.

Re:I'm not Shocked (2, Interesting)

Danathar (267989) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005298)

The only issue is being able to "browse" for books as a consumer. I have NO idea where a website for an author that does not exist...exists. There has to be some way for me to know and word of mouth generally is not very efficient.

Re:I'm not Shocked (5, Insightful)

Garwulf (708651) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005340)

Oh, good grief...

THIS got marked "informative"?

Right, I'm both an author who has worked with big publishers, and the owner and operator of a small publishing company. Let me explain what happened here.

Rather than deal with Random House's e-book terms, Wiley founded an e-book publishing company, which will be publishing the work of his clients. This is still a publisher - it's just a new one. The dispute is over electronic reprint rights, and that will depend on the wording of the contracts that Wiley's authors signed ("first English language publication rights" includes e-book rights - "first English language print publication rights" does not).

Now, subsidiary matters:

1. Any new book requires editing by somebody who is not the author (the author is too close to the book to be able to edit it properly), as well as typesetting (which is harder than it sounds - my first typeset job is an embarrassment to me now), as well as some form of marketing. These are what a publisher provides, and yes, they cost money. So, while an author can go it alone, and sometimes succeed, they're usually better off with an actual publisher.

2. Publishers make much less on books than you think. Let me provide the breakdown, based on any one of my publishing company's books with a $24.95 USD cover price:

55% goes to the wholesaler (who then sells it on to bookstores and Amazon at a 40% discount off the cover price). So, now we're down to $11.23.

Next we have the print cost - for a print on demand book like one of mine, we're talking anywhere from $4.00 to $8.00, depending on the page count. We'll take a middle number, so $6.00 is printing. Now we're down to $5.23. Then there's the royalties on top of that.

Now, for larger print runs (around 1500 copies and up), offset printing is used, which cuts down on the print cost considerably. But, the wholesaler still takes 55%.

This new publisher is going to specialize in e-books, and that makes the calculation much different. If you're just going through Amazon for distribution, then you don't have the wholesaler in the picture, and that means that rather than having a net profit (before royalties) on a $10 book being around $3.50 (very rough estimate), you can have it at around $7.00.

But these are the factors in play. It's far more complicated than you described it, and this is certainly not a case of authors going out on their own and leaving the publishing system behind.

Re:I'm not Shocked (1)

strikeleader (937501) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005426)

Musicians need to break free from their record label overlords and follow suit.

Perhaps (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | more than 3 years ago | (#33004926)

the first book offered under this deal will be titled 'Balkanization'. Seems apropos.

What to think of Amazon?? (3, Insightful)

Qwavel (733416) | more than 3 years ago | (#33004928)

I really don't know what to think of Amazon.

Sometimes they are great for consumers - competing fair and square with great prices and a great website.

Their video service is available to anyone with Flash, and while many people hate Flash (and some now don't have access to it) that seemed like a good way to allow customers to view the video they purchased across a very broad range of OS's, browsers and devices.

Then they go and do something like this, which seems to lead us to a world where different retailers control different books and have no competition in the sales of those books. This is very bad for consumers.

This avoid competition and seems to guarantee their customers higher prices. This is the sort of thing I would expect from Apple, not Amazon. I thought Amazon was prepared to compete fairly in book sales?

   

Re:What to think of Amazon?? (2, Insightful)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 3 years ago | (#33004986)

This will help you sort it out - they are in it for the money! That's not a bad thing, thats what they are there for.

nice to see greed is rampant.... (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005002)

So instead of making the books cheaper so that more are sold... we try like hell to keep it at status quo so we can increase profits...

at 70% royalties and ebooks selling at the same price as dead tree editions... I feel far less guilt getting the cracked epub off of a torrent site..of dead tree books I own...

The authors are getting as bad as the publishers.

Re:nice to see greed is rampant.... (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005214)

Don't buy things if they aren't worth the price. That will show them.

I actually think books are sold rather cheap. I get a lot more out of them than I do from a movie at 2x-10x the price. (10x being a new, not-yet-discounted Bluray, of course.)

I've begun to think that we need to have a way to tell the author, "I didn't buy your product because it cost too much!" That way, when we vote with our wallets, they'll know for sure.

Reminds me (1)

OverlordQ (264228) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005064)

Reminds me when Valve started Steam, Vivendi got pissed for being bypassed.

Good for the authors, bad for consumers (3, Interesting)

Ngarrang (1023425) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005236)

I imagine that many of the authors that this greatly effects are the ones that do this as a full-time job. If no one buys their books NEW, then they see no money, or maybe no future book deal. The profit margin approaches 100% after enough time and copies have sold. This allows the good authors to write full-time and not have to worry about asking if we want fries with our order. Book sales trail off after release, so the most money is to be made in that first year, though some books enjoy a long life of sales popularity. So, good for the authors.

This is a very bad deal for consumers, in the end. My copy of "Nothing: The History of Zero" was a fun read. Now that I am done with it, I can give it to a friend, sell it, trade it in at Half-Priced Books, etc. In this way, I can recoup some of my cost. And the book can be purchased and resold many times, profits staying in the hands of the seller each time. The author makes nothing. The DRM on the eBooks prevents you from selling it, or giving it away.

Thus, in a sly maneuver to make big publishing look like evil bastards (not a difficult task), the authors conveniently and quietly take control of book distribution and remove the freedom of the consumer to control the end product themselves. This is bad. Very bad.

Thus, I am conflicted. Yay for getting what you deserve to be paid. Boo for limiting my ability to resell the book.

Re:Good for the authors, bad for consumers (2, Interesting)

Shados (741919) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005292)

Honestly, I don't get this. If you live in the middle of nowhere, you have a point. But good libraries will have virtually any book worth reading, or at least the vast majority (including tech books), and its freeeeeeeeee.

So if you don't plan on keeping the book, why buy it in the first place? And if you're not sure, borrow it first, then buy it.

I mean, i understand this DOES remove an option from you, but most of the time, that option was worthless in the first place.

Re:Good for the authors, bad for consumers (1)

Ngarrang (1023425) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005412)

Honestly, I don't get this. If you live in the middle of nowhere, you have a point. But good libraries will have virtually any book worth reading, or at least the vast majority (including tech books), and its freeeeeeeeee.

So if you don't plan on keeping the book, why buy it in the first place? And if you're not sure, borrow it first, then buy it.

I mean, i understand this DOES remove an option from you, but most of the time, that option was worthless in the first place.

Shados, you've bought a book, then?

And think about what you just wrote...libraries lend books. Does your library lend out eBooks?

What did Amazon offer? (3, Interesting)

proxima (165692) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005278)

What did Amazon offer to get exclusivity for two years? My hunch is that Amazon agreed to heavily promote the books on its site, and wouldn't do so if they also went to BN and Apple.

Also, they apparently don't have the rights to decent looking book covers - the current covers are pretty ugly. Seriously - who thought it was a good idea to include quotations as cover art when it goes on devices like cell phones? Just the title and author in a decent font would do.

   

Too much DRM (1)

thue (121682) | more than 3 years ago | (#33005330)

> This publishing programme is designed to address that need, and to help ebook readers build a digital library of classic contemporary literature.

> It offers 20 modern literary classics as ebooks for the first time, exclusively via Amazon.com's Kindle store.

So, you should build your library with ebooks DRM-looked to Amazon's kindle.

Yeah, right. I think I will pass.

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