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Why Are There More Old Songs On iTunes Than Old eBooks?

Soulskill posted about 6 months ago | from the i-blame-the-schools dept.

Books 77

New submitter Paul J Heald writes "The vast majority of books and songs from the 20th Century are out-of-print. New data show music publishers doing an admirable job of digitizing older content, but book publishers fail miserably at putting old works in eBook form. I've done some research in an attempt to explain why: 'Music publishers can proceed with the digitization of their back catalog without competing to re-sign authors or hiring lawyers to renegotiate and write new contracts. Research has revealed no cases holding that music publishers must renegotiate in order to digitize their vinyl back catalogs. The situation for book publishers is substantially the opposite. In the landmark case of Random House v. Rosetta Books, the Second Circuit held that Random House had to renegotiate deals with its authors in order to publish their hard copy books in eBook format. ... Another advantage that the music industry may have is the lower cost of digitization. A vinyl album or audio master tape can be converted directly to a consumable digital form and be made available almost immediately. A book, on the other hand, can be scanned quite easily, but in order to be marketed as a professional-looking eBook (as opposed to a low quality, camera-like image of the original book), the scanned text needs to be manipulated with word processing software to reset the fonts and improve the appearance of the text.'"

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Hey (1)

koan (80826) | about 6 months ago | (#46491969)

Sounds like a business opportunity for someone, jump on it.
There's a tidy selection of "old books" (really old) on http://www.gutenberg.org/ [gutenberg.org]

Try buying Spinozas Philosophy in paper, it's expensive but you can get it at Gutenberg for free.

Re:Hey (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46492005)

Seems like a copyright issue for post Jan 1, 1923 works issue where the music industry has more control over them??????

Here's how most book publishing works: (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46495721)

I own a literary agency that has specialized in SF/F for over sixty years. I can speak to these issues authoritatively.

What the situation is with books printed by publishers is very simple: the publishers do not own the books. Just some rights, under some conditions.

Typically, an author engages a literary agency to represent their work to publishers. This includes submitting the work to publishers who normally handle that particular genre or otherwise might specifically be interested at the moment; negotiating a contract with the publisher, and finding a balance between getting the work published, while retaining any rights not specifically purchased by the publisher. The publisher in turn relies on the expertise the specific agency has in a particular genre or genres. Most large publishers will not deal directly with an author. Most small publishers give it up after trying it for a while -- it's definitely "its own thing."

From the author's POV, the agency brings expertise on rights negotiation, knowledge of publishers, knowledge of foreign sales (either directly or through associate agencies), tax issues, and direct access to editors at the publishers they deal with. From the publisher's POV, they don't have deal with authors who have no knowledge of the legal territory, and whom, in most cases, they would never consider publishing anyway.

The agency also performs triage: the publisher can be assured that the agency felt the work, and the author, was worth representing, and that the work is in a genre the publisher wishes to address, and that takes a huge amount of cruft off the table (look at the self-published stuff on Amazon to see what I mean there. The vast majority of it is truly awful.) It does not guarantee a sale; but it makes it a great deal easier on the publisher, and it does make sales easier for all parties involved.

So when a deal is struck, what publishers purchase from the agency on behalf of the author is the right to produce a work in a particular format under negotiated conditions. For instance, a hardcover edition. That does not give them the right to produce it as an audiobook, or a softcover, or a movie, or a play, or a radio show, etc., although they may also negotiate those rights -- each contract is specific, and the better the contract, the more specific it is.

Most such contracts are most explicit in what rights they confer, and under what conditions, and in terms of time. Others go even further and are explicit in what rights they do not confer.

Another issue here is whether something is in print. Again, the initial contract negotiates what happens when and if the book goes out of print, and what defines that. The rights may revert immediately; they may revert after a period of time; they may not revert at all; they may revert if an additional print run is not done within X period of time, etc. It's all about the contract the publisher accepts.

The specific rights negotiated, particularly on older titles, will vary by publisher and by agency; the most careful agencies have been reserving electronic reproduction rights since the 1950's. At the time, it was a "so what" issue to the publishers. Today, it isn't.

So in many cases, unless the copyright for a book has expired completely, the author controls the e-book rights through the agency representing the author. In others, if those rights were not reserved, the publisher has control (this should be relatively uncommon.) If copyright has expired completely, then the works are in the public's hands.

What with the recent changes in copyright law in favor of longer copyright terms, a huge amount of what we think of as modern works are still under control of whatever contracts are extant, or the rights have reverted to the author, the author's estate, or the author's representative (typically a literary agency.)

When e-books hit the market, there was a great upset in the publishing industry, and they suddenly became extremely conservative on several fronts: New authors found it almost impossible to find publishers, and existing authors found it difficult to publish new works. This has begun to settle out, but things still have not returned to normal. I know of a number of truly excellent novels by any standard by previously unpublished authors that remain on offer. Publishers still have numerous concerns and they are quite risk-averse. Other changes include marketing; it used to be that publishers would do the marketing for a title they wanted to publish: now, they expect the author to do it, or a great deal of it. Web sites, book signing tours, etc. They've moved these expenses to the shoulders of the author, and that in turn has driven many authors to self-publish, even though that puts a huge amount of extra load and responsibility on the author from day one.

I can't speak for how music is handled. But the above is an up to date description of how the book publishing industry, such as it is, works.

Re:Hey (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 6 months ago | (#46492887)

Sounds like a business opportunity for someone, jump on it.

It would only be a business opportunity if there was enough consumer demand to justify the expense. If there was consumer demand for "old books" then used bookstores would be thriving. But they are not. They are either already out of business, or are struggling.

Try buying Spinozas Philosophy in paper, it's expensive but you can get it at Gutenberg for free.

... and that is the problem. The old books that anyone cares about are free, and the books that nobody cares about, nobody is going to buy.

Re: Hey (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46492951)

One business specializing in old hard to find books in eBook format could do fine.

Used bookstores are struggling? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46493575)

Where do you live that used bookstores are struggling? The one in my hometown is at least as busy as the local Barnes & Noble.

Re:Used bookstores are struggling? (1)

_Shad0w_ (127912) | about 6 months ago | (#46493755)

All the ones in my home town shut down. The last one went when the woman who owned it died; no-one wanted to take over running it.

Expired. (2)

westlake (615356) | about 6 months ago | (#46492987)

Try buying Spinozas Philosophy in paper, it's expensive but you can get it at Gutenberg for free.

Spinoza in a modern English translation with a proper introduction and notes will save the reader time and pain. I have tried reading the classics in Gutenberg, but they always send me back to Penguin Books and other sources.

Re: Expired. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46493089)

Philosophy is pain.
The closer you get to what the author actually wrote the closer the truth of the philosophy, which is why Muslims say it isn't the Quran if its translated.

Re:Hey (1)

nospam007 (722110) | about 6 months ago | (#46493557)

"Try buying Spinozas Philosophy in paper, it's expensive but you can get it at Gutenberg for free."

Any book on demand site will print one out for 10-20$, less if it's a 'test-book'.

Re:Hey (1)

koan (80826) | about 6 months ago | (#46493583)

Free on Gutenberg, $20 is a month of Top Ramen.

Re:Hey (1)

daremonai (859175) | about 6 months ago | (#46495545)

A month of Top Ramen is more painful than all of Spinoza's works.

Re: Hey (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46495775)

Then you haven't eaten Spinoza...

Yeah. That pretty much sums it up. (0)

Lumpio- (986581) | about 6 months ago | (#46491973)

I'm sure we all already knew this though.

Re:Yeah. That pretty much sums it up. (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 6 months ago | (#46492263)

Hey, maybe one of the eds just randomly pushed a journal post to the front page.

Word processing?! (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 6 months ago | (#46491979)

the scanned text needs to be manipulated with word processing software to reset the fonts and improve the appearance of the text

No, really, at the scale that this is happening, the scanned text actually needs to be converted into TEI using some sane heuristics. It's a world-wide problem that needs a reasonable (less-)semi-(more-)automatic solution, not millions of people unsystematically fiddling in their word processors.

Re:Word processing?! (1)

Blaskowicz (634489) | about 6 months ago | (#46492081)

What does TEI mean?, that's the most obscure initialism ever.

Re:Word processing?! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46492203)

http://www.tei-c.org/index.xml

Re:Word processing?! (0)

S.O.B. (136083) | about 6 months ago | (#46492241)

Try Google. I think the first hit is what the OP meant.

https://www.google.ca/search?client=googlet&q=TEI [google.ca]

Re:Word processing?! (3, Informative)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about 6 months ago | (#46492997)

I think the first hit is what the OP meant.

Tax Executives Institute? [tei.org]

Hint: Google's search results are personalized. What was the first hit for you might not be the first hit for somebody else.

Re:Word processing?! (1)

S.O.B. (136083) | about 5 months ago | (#46581711)

I don't login to Google and I block cookies by default so my results aren't personalized but you're right, most people probably do get personalized results.

Re:Word processing?! (1)

Alan Shutko (5101) | about 6 months ago | (#46492183)

It only needs to be encoded into TEI if you want to digitally archive the original edition. For instance, you want to be able to mark up an original and identify original and regularized spelling of a word.

If you just want to be able to reissue an Ellery Queen novel in ePub, you don't need TEI at all, and could have someone just retype the scans or hand-correct (off shored, usually).

Re:Word processing?! (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 6 months ago | (#46492245)

Well, we are talking about keeping historical books around, in form as close to the originals as possible, right? Also, TEI keeps the semantics around, not just the fact that sentence such-and-such is printed in Garamond. I don't think it's merely for critical editions, it simply has the full gamut to cover the useful information about the texts and works of the type you'd want to digitize in historical library, so why not use it? I blame its low penetration on inadequate tools. But you can always go down the lossy road and re-typeset it for whatever reason (either permanently for print or temporarily for on-screen display, it's virtually the same thing). It's not nearly that simple in the opposite direction, but it's very much beneficial (not merely because of space savings).

Re:Word processing?! (2)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about 6 months ago | (#46492645)

Well, we are talking about keeping historical books around, in form as close to the originals as possible, right?

Well, my impression of TFA was that we were talking about recent books (20th century) which were out-of-print or unavailable -- not "historical" preservation. And it's about making such texts available to a mass-market audience for purchase. It's not about annotating manuscripts or some sort of academic analysis of manuscripts from hundreds of years ago.

Also, TEI keeps the semantics around, not just the fact that sentence such-and-such is printed in Garamond.

I don't understand. Your first sentence says you want to keep the "form as close to the originals as possible" but now you want to add tags, metadata, and semantic information which was not present in the original texts. Which one is it?

I'm not saying that TEI is bad -- I'm saying it's actually about adding information to make old texts more navigable and superimposing a particular type of analysis on them, not just preserving things in original form. Most people who just want to buy a copy of a book from 1990 in an ebook form don't care about some complex set of metadata that could be used for linguistic analysis or something. They just want the text, retypeset in an electronic form.

But you can always go down the lossy road and re-typeset it for whatever reason

Methinks you do not know what "lossy" means. In the case of preserving old books in electronic format, the full "non-lossy" version would be something like a set of full-color images, showing all details of page layout, font usage, spacing, placement of figures and images, etc. (Even there, for old manuscripts you might want to preserve binding information, gathering structure, etc. which would be lost in just a set of images.) That's desireable for analysis of a manuscript or something very old where reconstructing the exact layout of things is important.

Retypesetting the text is "lossy," in that it loses layout, typesetting, and pagination information -- but, for most people with standard books, they care more about the text than the layout. Also, it's helpful to process texts in this way for electronic formats, because it allows readers to take advantage of tools in readers like changing font size or other layout options.

What you're talking about with TEI is just as "lossy" as retypesetting (though some elements of page layout can be preserved, if desired), but you're also talking about adding in information that wasn't present in the original text. Kinda like ripping an mp3 track off of a vinyl record, and then recording some optional commentary over top of it: "If you listen here, you can hear the bridge, followed by a return to the refrain with backup vocals," etc.

TEI has its place, but I'm not sure it's particularly relevant to the simple idea of making ebooks available from books that may have been published a couple decades ago.

Re:Word processing?! (2)

zippthorne (748122) | about 6 months ago | (#46494401)

Indeed, for e-books, "preserving layout" beyond just keeping the paragraphs (and sections, so that no individual section is too big for the reader's ram) separated is a detriment, as it interferes with readers' abilities to change the layout themselves for various reasons.

My older family members, for instance, like to change the font to a very large size, something that is not possible if the publisher spends too much effort getting the typesetting just right and freezing it in instead of allowing the device to do it on the fly.

Re:Word processing?! (1)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about 6 months ago | (#46496149)

My older family members, for instance, like to change the font to a very large size, something that is not possible if the publisher spends too much effort getting the typesetting just right and freezing it in instead of allowing the device to do it on the fly.

Absolutely. I just wish some ebook formats and readers adopted something like a LaTeX convention, which could allow text sections to be reformatted in a beautiful, elegant, and typographically sensitive manner with minimal fuss. Despite my previous post, I personally cannot stand reading normal ebooks, due to poor typography. (I prefer PDFs, if I have to.) But I know I'm in the minority....

"Out of Print" may still be in electronic form (1)

billstewart (78916) | about 6 months ago | (#46492369)

Lots of books are out of print that were printed since the publishing industry went to digital production systems. That fiction book that's more than a year old and wasn't selling well? It's not coming out on dead trees again, but they've got it in Word. Older books may be in older formats, but even if they're proprietary formats, extracting the text (for books without pictures) isn't that hard.

It's a problem with publishing rights and contracts and publishers' predictions about profitability.

And even with books that require scanning, Dover Books did surprisingly good business for years selling fuzzy images of out-of-copyright books; these days it wouldn't be too hard to OCR and reimage most of them, but alternatively bits are cheap enough these days that they could be available in image formats instead of OCR.

Money Issue (1)

Technician (215283) | about 6 months ago | (#46492051)

Itunes is for profit. Lovers of preservation of old text is on Project Gutenberg. http://www.gutenberg.org/ [gutenberg.org]

Re:Money Issue (1)

radarskiy (2874255) | about 6 months ago | (#46495085)

"Itunes is for profit"

Book sellers like Amazon are not for profit? Book publishers like Random House are not for profit?

Lots of old books in ebook format (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46492073)

Project Gutenberg has over 45,000 public domain eBooks available, free for download.

http://www.gutenberg.org/

ebookoid has 1 million ebooks (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46492101)

1. go to ebookoid.com
2. download any of the million ebooks

Thank the crazy Russians for bringing us resources like this

Re:ebookoid has 1 million ebooks (1)

Trentula (1684992) | about 6 months ago | (#46493199)

Library Genesis (http://libgen.org/) has been great when I need to find texts of the academic variety.

The late Michael Hart of Project Gutenberg (3, Interesting)

dpbsmith (263124) | about 6 months ago | (#46492185)

...had a lot of acerbic observations on the topic.

"I said this in 1971, in the very first week of PG, that by the end of my lifetime you would be able to carry every word in the Library of Congress in one hand - but they will pass a law against it. I realized they would never let us have that much access to so much information." http://samvak.tripod.com/busiw... [tripod.com]

He was scathing on the topic of the attempts (which are largely succeeding) to convert us from an ownership society to a rentier society:

http://comments.gmane.org/gman... [gmane.org]

"I worry that 100 years from now that 99% of foods will be GMO's [Genetically
Manipulated/Manufactured Organisms] and hence under copyright. . .and this
will enforce a copyright-powered hunger/starvation/malnutrition of the body
just as current copyright extensions are powering such for the mind.

The goal of WIPO is that EVERYTHING should HAVE to be paid for, plus a
royalty for the intellectual property. . .at a time when everyone COULD
have everything pretty much free of charge from replicator technology.

100 years ago the atom-powered Nautilus and atomic bomb were fiction,
only 50 years later the Nautilus was being built, and it sailed into
my own home town and their crew came to my school. . . .

Do you REALLY think it won't be even more different in the future?

But WIPO still wants to charge hugely for replicated food, just as
it does for replicated books."

Re: The late Michael Hart of Project Gutenberg (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46492413)

So you agree to work for free as well

Re: The late Michael Hart of Project Gutenberg (2)

jedidiah (1196) | about 6 months ago | (#46493723)

There's a wide gap between "you will work for free" and an expansive intellectual property regime that's worse than Robber Barons on the Rhine river where you get taxed every 5 feet for nothing.

NOBODY is even talking about "working for free" here. This is about stuff that is older than you are. The only people (potentially) making money are mooches.

Sophocles wants his cut.

Re:The late Michael Hart of Project Gutenberg (1)

radarskiy (2874255) | about 6 months ago | (#46495081)

Why is it notable that there was once a man wrong about everything?

Well duh! (2)

bjohnson (3225) | about 6 months ago | (#46492187)

The music industry has a long and sordid history of ripping off the artists...in the main there's nothing to negotiate because the music publishers own the republishing rights.

Book publishers, contract to publish the book, in one format.

(The same negotiations often have to take place for paperback rights as well, so it's not like this is something new, and is, in the main simple boilerplate contracting with the author, author's agent, or estate) The renegotiations are hard because the publishers are greedy.

Of course all of your basic /. 'intellectual property is theft' technomarxists who never had to make their living off their own intellectual property couldn't be arsed to comprehend this...while musicians can sometimes eke out a living playing live (when they still own their own music, that is), there's not a lot of call for authors to read their books in front of adoring crowds night after night...

Re:Well duh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46492361)

Of course all of your basic /. 'intellectual property is theft' technomarxists who never had to make their living off their own intellectual property couldn't be arsed to comprehend this...while musicians can sometimes eke out a living playing live (when they still own their own music, that is), there's not a lot of call for authors to read their books in front of adoring crowds night

In my neck of the woods, a great many musicians are supported through state arts grants, which allow them to draw a livable income through their recordings and live performances, but subsidizes these recordings and performances so that they are more affordable to the broad population. There is no reason the same cannot be done with writing. In fact, there is already a system here where authors that show talent can draw state scholarships to concentrate full-time on writing, but the results are under copyright (that is enforced) and prices are high, as publishers in my country have already been investigated for acting like a cartel. Tweak a few aspects of the creative economy and boom, you've got writers making money and readers able to enjoy what they want at little to no cost.

Law of unintended consequences (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46492497)

Do you really want the state deciding what is sufficient 'talent' for people to be full-time writers?

Skipping the intense creepiness factor entirely I know exactly how that would go down in Texas. They'd object to it as a handout program until they realized they could set it up as handing out funds only to Biblical "scholars" or other people who just happened to coincidentally have similar political interests. If you tried to set up an objective board they would try to get control over who sat on the board.

Re:Well duh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46493013)

In my neck of the woods, a great many musicians are supported through state arts grants, which allow them to draw a livable income

How many do you consider 'a great many'? I bet it'd be less than I'd like. I've got nothing against state grants for the arts, but I don't believe that they could ever possibly be enough.

I agree, plus proposal: (1)

arisvega (1414195) | about 6 months ago | (#46493031)

The music industry has a long and sordid history of ripping off the artists...

This.

The music industry got cold sweat from the diversity of available media (vinyl, magnetic tapes, optical disks, whatever) and the easyness of internet sharing and binded the artists with all-encompassing contracts, taking the music out of their hands: you are not allowed to perform your own songs in public without your label sanctioning it (and making millions from your fans by selling them beer) first because, technically, they are not your songs any more.

In return, the label sends its armies of lawyers (along with corrupt government elements) to Hell and beyond to track, terrorize and imprison teenagers who had the audacity to publicly share even a small exrept of the (formerly yours) work, and grand you your 0.00000000001% cut from the process.

I only know the book publishing "established" rules a little bit, and -unexpectedly- they are not too much in favor for the writer either.

A good initiative, especially in the music industry, is to have different classifications: streaming is not vinyl is not concert, and those things need to be handled seperately. Artists need to stop signing those all-encompassing deals and a very good start would be e.g. to use a label to produce an LP, then go to a different label and let them handle your content via streaming on the internet: do NOT give up all rights for your art, because that is what you live from. The labels will resist of course but if enough artists do it, then it is done.

Book conversion is labor intensive compared to aud (2)

Cryptosmith (692059) | about 6 months ago | (#46492207)

While book scanning can be done by machine, the machinery is going to be expensive and complicated. Your typical bibliophile can't afford it. Scanning a book by hand can take hours, even with a V-shaped book-scanning fixture and two cameras.

The technology for digitizing audio is much easier to acquire and use. Any audiophile can afford the hardware and software to do a tolerable audio rip. Anyone can set up a rip, or several rips, and do real work while the rip takes place in the background. The quality might not be to audiophile standards, but will satisfy most casual users.

Even after you've created an "ebook" of page images, it isn't really suited for use in modern ereaders. For that you need an ePub format, or something similar. The text has to literally be in text format to allow reformatting. A decent modern ebook can adapt the text to different display sizes and different type sizes. This is hard to do.

Compare a typical book produced by Project Gutenberg and a typical book scanned into the Internet Archive. Gutenberg produces true ePubs consisting of text possibly sprinkled with digitized illustrations. Gutenberg might start with automatic text recognition, but its books go through a distributed proofreading process before they're released.

While I value what the Archive does (any digitization is better than none at all) I've discarded most ePubs I've downloaded from them. There are simply too many typos in the text recognition. Their scanned raw images and PDFs are usable, though they lack the flexibility of true ebooks.

Why do morons ask questions with obvious anzwers? (0)

gweihir (88907) | about 6 months ago | (#46492217)

Simple, because they are morons. For the question at hand for those that really do not see the glaringly obvious: Recording sound to digital is orders of magnitude easier than making good OCRed ebooks out of print copies.

It's Not Just the Technical Difficulty of Scanning (1)

sehlat (180760) | about 6 months ago | (#46492231)

Authors' estates are notoriously greedy and short-sighted. I've seen several efforts come to grief on the fact that the heirs frequently have highly-inflated ideas of what the books are worth (Hey, they're classics!), and by God they want their "cut." Project Gutenberg had to fend off efforts by one "estate manager" to claim that materials which were clearly in public domain weren't (sort of a dwarf Warner Music). Another effort to publish "the complete Murray Leinster" foundered the same way.

In the academic world... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46492297)

I've never understood why, even really old, journal articles are routinely available digitally but textbooks aren't. The only thing more pissing annoying than this is when Google has digitised (and OCRed) the book but, due to copyright reasons, can't show you more than about three sentences at a time. Despite the fact that the original publisher cba to make a digital version available. It's there... but you can't get it. Incredibly frustrating.

Re:In the academic world... (1)

laird (2705) | about 6 months ago | (#46492601)

Easy. The economics of journals and textbooks are completely different.

Journals are cheap to produce magazines where the publisher's goal is subscribers, so individual copies don't matter much economically. And they're cheap to convert to ePub because the formatting doesn't matter so much (typically).

Textbooks are huge, expensively produced content very precisely formatted and can't simply be re-flowed into ePub because the result (after some publishers tried this with Amazon a few years ago) was completely unusable by students. For example, when a professor tells you to look at the diagram on the right column on page 47, in an ePub it would be on a random page (wherever the reader's screen size, text size, etc., flowed it). So textbook publishers that produce digital textbooks have to invested a great deal of effort making a digital textbook that's essentially a content-oriented software application sold to students. And they get paid by students buying the textbook, not by subscribers, so every copy matters.

So as a result, journals are much more open to digital distribution, allowing previews, etc., while textbooks are much more locked-down.

Re:In the academic world... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46494003)

For example, when a professor tells you to look at the diagram on the right column on page 47, in an ePub it would be on a random page (wherever the reader's screen size, text size, etc., flowed it).

what bullshit, with a properly marked up ebook the professor would be going 'look at diagram 4a' and the student would just click the link from the content table.

Re:In the academic world... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46494091)

So textbook publishers that produce digital textbooks have to invested a great deal of effort making a digital textbook that's essentially a content-oriented software application sold to students.

Why would they do that, when they can easily create a PDF that keeps the original formatting?

Amazon does better (2)

fermion (181285) | about 6 months ago | (#46492327)

One thing with old books is their value is small. Apple wants to sell everything for $10. I can go to a used books store and buy an old book for a couple dollars. I can go to Amazon and but out of copyright books for a couple dollars. I can go to Amazon and buy new books for a few dollars. Even at Amazon, though, many older books are more expensive that what one can find elsewhere. The difference between books and songs is that iTunes provided a new way to monetize old music. Sell single tracks to those who won't but the used music at the resale shop. It is simple, fast, and converting a track to digital is not hugely expensive. Here is another difference. Music no longer has DRM. I have many tracks for itunes because it was always possible to remove the DRM. I have few books from iBooks because the only place I can read them is on an Apple device. Amazon at least has the advantage of having readers on many devices. So, one buys an older book on iBooks, one pays more, one can only read it on limited devices, and publishers have to pay huge fees to Apple.

Re: Amazon does better (1)

alen (225700) | about 6 months ago | (#46492455)

I dont know about dead tree books but the kindle books always go on sale for less than $10. There are even sites out there to track your favorite books and authors for sales

It's not legal issues, it's production issues (3, Insightful)

laird (2705) | about 6 months ago | (#46492477)

I worked in the music industry (in IT). I have no idea where the idea came from that the music publishers didn't have to renegotiate contracts to get digital rights to the music. In reality, when digital rights became important, the music companies spent a huge amount of time and money having teams for at least a decade tracking down rights-holders and negotiating digital rights in order to sell their back catalog, and of course made sure that their new contracts covered selling through the digital service providers. Book publishers have essentially the same legal challenge (though admittedly the details are different).

What is really different is the production logistics.

Music has been digitally produced for a very long time, using open standard formats, and for pre-digital material it's relatively easy to digitize audio (and video) from master tapes, so you only need to do "work" to deal with some very old, obscure media, which is only done selectively. And the music publishers have built systems that are very, very good at managing and format converting huge libraries of audio and video. So, 99% of the time, digitally selling back-catalog music and video is logistically fairly easy - QA, package, price, and send the files to the digital service providers.

Books, however, have been authored in a series of random formats, and for older books there's only the physical book or manuscript and nothing digital. Which means that you often need to physically scan every page in the book/manuscript, OCR it, clean it up, QA the result, etc. And even for the digitally authored books, you need to track down whatever specific physical media and formats each publisher or author used (MacAuthor on 3.5" floppy, LaTeX, MS Word 3 on 5.25" floppy, etc.). So, overall, physically and logistically really complex to deal with for every single back-catalog book.

Look at what Project Gutenberg has produced - an amazing collection, but it required a massive investment of (volunteer) effort to process the books into digital formats.

Re:It's not legal issues, it's production issues (1)

gclef (96311) | about 6 months ago | (#46492547)

The difference, which the summary alludes to, but doesn't call out, is that it's very typical for book contracts to contain a clause that reverts all copyrights back to the author after the book falls out of print for some period of time. Music contracts very rarely have that. Music contracts may or may not have covered the right to distribute the works digitally, but the music publishers still have *some* rights to old works, where the book publishers will have none.

Re:It's not legal issues, it's production issues (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about 6 months ago | (#46492767)

There is also the problem of scale of the work. Most songs are about 5 minutes. Even if re-mastering requires an engineer, that requires less time than scanning and proofing hundreds of pages. From what I remember, some books were printed with rare or unique fonts. Getting the OCR to work takes some tweaking based on different fonts.

Re:It's not legal issues, it's production issues (1)

jedidiah (1196) | about 6 months ago | (#46493675)

> I have no idea where the idea came from that the music publishers didn't have to renegotiate contracts to get digital rights to the music.

For example: Def Leppard started cloning their 80s works in order to avoid getting a raw deal on them being published as MP3s. Clearly whatever contract they signed in the 80s managed to to be broad enough to cover a means of distribution that no one even dreamed up yet.

You can do that if you have a smart lawyer. You don't have to mention iTunes by name in 1983 or 1964.

Re:It's not legal issues, it's production issues (1)

laird (2705) | about 6 months ago | (#46496557)

Good point. Once music companies realized that new forms of distribution were important they started writing contracts more broadly even though they didn't know what would come along. There's an amusing story of one band who's contract licensed the music for distribution anywhere on Earth, so the band bounced their album off of the moon (laser at moon, re-digitized via telescope) to get out of the contract. Which worked, because the moon wasn't on Earth. So contracts started putting in crazy phrases like "distributed through any means, known or unknown, anywhere in the known or unknown Universe". Must have been a weird time to be a lawyer. That was all well before iTunes - the same sorts of issues came up every time there's a new format - when cassettes came out, and CDs, some old contracts had to be renegotiated. The trick with digital distribution was that there's no physical product, so the legal definition of a sale via iTunes has to be defined, and covering terms for "purchased", "rented" and "streamed", which all have different terms and pricing, none of which was in a contract from the 80s. So when I was in music ten years ago, digital distribution for pretty much every single album in the back catalog required clearance, requiring someone to track down the current rights holder and negotiate a new contract. This kept huge teams of people busy doing detective work, trying to figure out who had the rights to (for example) a jazz album from 60 years ago where the artist, agent, etc., are no longer living, or a band that split up and the legal status between the members was murky, etc. So it's only easy for the music labels to do digital distribution deals now because they spent over a decade chasing this sort of thing down and getting new contracts signed.

They are there for free. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46492623)

I began my collection with these 80.000 ebooks.

magnet:?xt=urn:btih:5ed9585fb9db0489a9fcd437d7880ba59a4ceabe&dn=largest+fiction+library+english+ebooks+80000+authors+9000&tr=udp%3A%2F%2Ffr33domtracker.h33t.com%3A3310%2Fannounce&tr=udp%3A%2F%2Fopen.demonii.com%3A1337

It's simple (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 6 months ago | (#46492685)

Why are there more old songs online than old e-books? That's simple, songs are in a format readily convertable to digital. Old masters, just go through an analog to digital conversion that can be pretty much automated. Most don't even need that as they were converted to digital when CDs first came on the scened.

Books, on the other hand, particularly prior to electronic publishing often dealt with paper manuscripts. Those have to be scanned and converted, a much more labor intensive process. Even if they had been converted to an electronic format for editing and typesetting purposes and that format still exists, it needs to be converted into something modern PCs and tablets can read.

While the latter conversion is less labor intensive than converting paper manuscripts, one then needs to look at the potential market. There are many more buyers for an early Frank Sinatra recording than there are for a copy of The Red Pony. Unless there is demand for a product, an old book, in this case, suppliers won't produce it. And, as a corollary, even if there is demand, it has to be at a price point that is profitable for the supplier.

In the end, the answer to the question of "Why are there more old songs online than old e-books?" is simple economics.

Re:It's simple (1)

westlake (615356) | about 6 months ago | (#46492933)

There are many more buyers for an early Frank Sinatra recording than there are for a copy of The Red Pony.

Not the best example. The Red Pony remains in print in hardcover, the Library of America, Penguin paperback, Kindle and audio book editions.

Re:It's simple (1)

nospam007 (722110) | about 6 months ago | (#46493585)

"Books, on the other hand, particularly prior to electronic publishing often dealt with paper manuscripts. Those have to be scanned and converted, a much more labor intensive process."

Not at all. If you have the license, just download one of the torrented pirated versions.
They already have done most of the job, sometimes _all_ of it.
Why rescanning it?

Re:It's simple (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 6 months ago | (#46494013)

Not at all. If you have the license, just download one of the torrented pirated versions.
They already have done most of the job, sometimes _all_ of it.
Why rescanning it?

I think the question was about publishers producing e-books of old books. It's highly unlikely that they are going to use a scanned copy. Usually consumers demand higher quality that a copier is going to make.

Note from someone who works in publishing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46492953)

The problem is this:

Making an ebook is way more time consuming than you think. OCRing is just part of the story. It's the copyediting that takes time and money.

Which is the main issue here: money. Old books just won't pull in the revenue needed to defray the costs of turning it into an ebook. That plus the rights issues? That's why we focus mainly on frontlist books as ebooks, as well as backlist from sellable authors. The rest will fall through the cracks and go away, since there is no business model in place to make it profitable for the publisher to spend the effort building ebooks from old titles.

Perhaps this could be solved through crowd-sourcing? It's totally worth investigating, since so many old books will simply disappear.

Re:Note from someone who works in publishing... (1)

nospam007 (722110) | about 6 months ago | (#46493593)

"Perhaps this could be solved through crowd-sourcing? It's totally worth investigating, since so many old books will simply disappear."

It's already been done by millions of people. Check any torrent site.

Re:Note from someone who works in publishing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46495511)

It is solved through crowd sourcing. Check out Distributed Proofreaders at pgdp.net, who produce e-books for Project Gutenberg. Of course, they are usually limited to books that are in the public domain.

Better question (1)

Dunge (922521) | about 6 months ago | (#46493255)

Why do you encourage Apple by buying stuff there?

Supply and demand ... that's all it is (2)

American Patent Guy (653432) | about 6 months ago | (#46493567)

Why aren't there more e-books? Is it because there aren't the resources needed to produce them inexpensively?

Folks: if people wanted e-books, then the industry would have come up with a machine to produce them. Henry Ford didn't do anything special except notice the huge demand in the public for automobiles. If there was a demand for e-books, someone would have pulled a Henry Ford and invented a way to produce them inexpensively too.

I think there's no demand principally because it's hard to read e-books on a computer display due to display issues. Writing is high contrast and susceptible to visual perceptions of pixellation. People don't see the lack of definition in a scenic image, but the eye does notice the wanderings of the edges of black letters against white backgrounds. When was the last time that you chose to receive a paper by fax? 300dpi is about the minimum that I can stand to read, and on a piece of paper that works out to be 2200 x 3000 pixels. How many devices are you aware of that have that resolution and are larger than 7 x 10 inches (18 x 25 cm)?

If you add to that other issues of convenience, I think you'll have your reasons why e-books haven't yet taken off. To read a book, you spend about three seconds in picking it up off the shelf and opening it. To read an e-book, you grab your tablet/computer/whatever, power it up, find your application for reading the book, and swipe through the screens until you reach the right spot. With a book, I can thumb through the pages to find my place, and I can insert a bookmark (or put my sticky notes if I have more than one.) With my e-book app, I probably get one bookmark. I can write and highlight in a book with a pen. I might be able to highlight in the app, and if I can then I have to remember the command for doing that and the gesture for marking out what I want to highlight. If I use books, I can put as many open books out on the table as will fit. If I use the usual e-book app, I can't look at more than one book at a time.

People have had hundreds of years coming up with the form of books: it will be a few more years before the e-book and tablet people will better it.

Re:Supply and demand ... that's all it is (1)

fuzznutz (789413) | about 6 months ago | (#46495945)

If you add to that other issues of convenience, I think you'll have your reasons why e-books haven't yet taken off. To read a book, you spend about three seconds in picking it up off the shelf and opening it. To read an e-book, you grab your tablet/computer/whatever, power it up, find your application for reading the book, and swipe through the screens until you reach the right spot.

No me. I just pick up my Kindle and open the case. The cover magnet causes the Kindle to turn on to the last page I read. If I want a different book, I press the top of the screen and push the home button and I have a list of books. Whichever book I select opens to the last page I read on the book I select. Simple...

needs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46493651)

These words, "needs to be," I do not think they mean what you think they mean.

High-quality music digitization is HARD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46493669)

I don't think the story submitter is knowledgeable about audio. His statement " A vinyl album or audio master tape can be converted directly to a consumable digital form and be made available almost immediately" seems pretty far from accurate.

Old master tapes degrade. Dynamic range can be very poor. There is hiss, short dropouts are possible, etc. etc.

Vinyl -- even when in mint condition -- has a plethory of problems as well. Pitch, wow, flutter, rumble, clicks, pops, poor stereo separation, etc. etc. I can easily spend the best part of a weekend with properly restoring a vinyl album. Automatic declickers/denoisers/debuzzers don't do a satisfactory job. And yes, despite being a consumer, I do have the proper software at my disposal.

Bottom line: creating properly restored and mastered digital audio from old analog sources is quite hard. I don't buy the argument that digitizing books is harder.

Re:High-quality music digitization is HARD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46494021)

Books can be digitized perfectly. It may take a human, but usually all letters, words, sentences, paragraphs, and chapters are perfectly legible. And even if a single letter is illegible, you have a decent chance at perfect digitization. Apart from an occasional typo, you'll end up with exactly the same text the author originally wrote.

Not so with music. An analog recording is always flawed. And old analog master tapes are particularly flawed. If a master tape has the equivalent of 12, 13, or 14 bits of resolution, that's actually quite good. You didn't get there before Dolby and friends were invented. And tapes don't age well. If stored properly, vinyl ages a bit better. But it's even more flawed as a medium. More often than not, the result is audibly different from what the performer intended.

So I think books and analog recordings are very different. You may need some manual labor to digitize a book but at least the result can be awesome. And, in principle, anyone with decent command of the language can do the digitization. With analog audio, it's different. Quality is poor due to the limitations inherent to the analog media and, furthermore, there's degradation over time. Restoration will always be imperfect. And doing it is as much an art as it is a science. Even an expensive package such as Izotope RX 3 won't yield good results if it's operated by a layman as opposed to someone fairly skilled such as a mastering engineer.

I see two arguments ... (1)

PPH (736903) | about 6 months ago | (#46494045)

.. both with some validity.

1. Different licensing terms.

2. Differing technical hurdles involved in the digitization process.

Both have merits to some degree. If text conversion is more costly than that for audio and the rights negotiations represent a higher risk barrier to overcome, then fewer people will undertake the time/capital expenditure to digitally re-publish text works. Since the legal underpinnings of copyright are in part for the benefit of society as a whole, than it would behoove us to lower this cost/risk barrier. Using both a carrot and stick approach, give the holders of copyright a tax incentive to revising their publishing agreements to include ePub and other future formats. For those that drag their heels, revise the terms of copyright law to expire rights that don't keep up with publishing technologies.

Old songs like "Gypsies in the Palace" (1)

SpankiMonki (3493987) | about 6 months ago | (#46494239)


In days of old, when knights were bold
ebooks weren't invented
Then came Jobs and his iTunes mobs
now no old books are rented.

simply put...Because of Gutenburg Project (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46494475)

http://www.gutenberg.org/

ITunes - Self Publishing Books (1)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | about 6 months ago | (#46494931)

I'm not sure if this is current but IBooks used to be harder to get into if your were self publishing a book than Amazon or B&N. Thus an author who recovered the rights to their book would have problems self publishing it in IBooks.

Simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46496183)

Takes more time to scan in all the old books versus encoding the various tones and warbles we call music.

You don't need to do that, it's actually easy (1)

Visarga (1071662) | about 6 months ago | (#46497203)

> A book, on the other hand, can be scanned quite easily, but in order to be marketed as a professional-looking eBook (as opposed to a low quality, camera-like image of the original book), the scanned text needs to be manipulated with word processing software to reset the fonts and improve the appearance of the text.'"

Instead of converting images to text, why not simply identify the rectangles boxing all the words, and reflow them? If I have a small PNG for each word of a book, and their positions in the page, I could write an algorithm to reflow the words into any desired row width and page size. Images could be captured the same way. They don't need to actually OCR the text unless they want to implement search.

easy if you ignore where you are reading. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46498083)

please compare the size of a png of the word 'the' and it's size in UTF-8 (24 bytes.)
consider that people use ebooks on bandwidth and storage constrained devices.

Melancholy Elephants... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46503705)

This is a concern.

http://www.spiderrobinson.com/melancholyelephants.html

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