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Top Authors Make eBook Deal, Bypassing Publishers 297

Posted by kdawson
from the what's-mine-is-mine dept.
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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Top Authors Make eBook Deal, Bypassing Publishers

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  • A good idea (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sa666_666 (924613) on Friday July 23, 2010 @12:15PM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cob666 (656740)
      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: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ClaraBow (212734)
        They are selling these editions at 9.99$. It seems a bit hight to me.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by tixxit (1107127)
          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.
      • by Lumpy (12016)

        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 (Score:5, Insightful)

          by b0bby (201198) on Friday July 23, 2010 @12:51PM (#33005246) Homepage

          $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.

    • by L0rdJedi (65690)

      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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        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 (Score:5, Informative)

          by gorzek (647352) <gorzekNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday July 23, 2010 @01:12PM (#33005536) Homepage Journal

          The issue isn't one of copyright but contract. Actors, writers, and directors in particular are all bound by contracts--either the boilerplate contracts from their respective guild (SAG, WGA, DGA) or a specific contract for the film in question. Those establish royalties and may or may not permit additional control over the film.

          To use a film clip in a TV show, for instance, you may need permission not only from the studio, but also from the actors, writers, and director, depending on how their contracts were negotiated. Even if you're the studio that owns the film, you would have to do this.

          A studio may have exclusive distribution rights for a film but that doesn't mean they have unfettered control over its use or get all the royalties. When it comes to major studio films, who holds the copyright just isn't that important because so many contracts are involved that divide control and proceeds among so many people.

    • Re:A good idea (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7&cornell,edu> on Friday July 23, 2010 @12:23PM (#33004864) Homepage

      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 (Score:5, Insightful)

        by arth1 (260657) on Friday July 23, 2010 @12:38PM (#33005096) Homepage Journal

        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?

        • the Kindle dynamic seems quite similar to the iPhone dynamic.
        • Re:A good idea (Score:5, Informative)

          by Eponymous Coward (6097) on Friday July 23, 2010 @12:55PM (#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: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by hgriggs (33207)

          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: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Joe Tie. (567096)
          Why people willingly go for locked down technologies like Kindle and iTunes, I'll never understand. Is it just because of the hype?

          Because DRM doesn't work. I have a kindle. One of the first thing I did was crack the drm on my old mobi ebooks that I had and put them on there. One of the first things I did on getting a new phone, before the kindle app was released, was to crack the drm on my kindle ebooks and toss them on there. It's not perfect yet, only about 75% of them were able to be cracked. But I
      • 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
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Suki I (1546431)
          Not a plug, not even linking or naming any of our books.

          Expanding your first point, you can read them on iPad, iPhone, iPod, Blackberry, MAC, and PC. I like the way they look on my iPhone better than on an actual Kindle, but I can see why most people prefer the bigger screen.

          As soon as I saw this article I cheered that the publisher of my only story is the same as these famous authors :) Need to pass this on to my friend I help with his books too.

          E-Junkie.Com provides PDF hosting. On our stuff ther
      • 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.

        • by fredjh (1602699)

          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....

          St

      • 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.
      • by PCM2 (4486) on Friday July 23, 2010 @03:06PM (#33007060) Homepage

        The only thing I don't like about this is the Amazon exclusivity.

        The "only thing"? I'm practically screaming about it!

        I have a Nook. It's a superior e-reader to the Kindle. (YMMV.) What this deal is saying is that I may not read any of the affected books on my Nook, period. If I prefer to read on my Nook, then POOF! These books are lost to me. Apparently, permanently. I do not understand how these authors (or their heirs) can sit still for that.

        And I know the Slashdot audience tends to read mostly fantasy and sci-fi books, but for the literature-minded among you, Jesus titty-fucking Christ! These are indeed modern classics, lost to Amazon's DRM. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas? Ellison's Invisible Man? London Fields? The Naked and the Dead? These are great books... and now I may not read them in a digital edition unless I give $199 + $10 to Amazon. Fuck me.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bluefoxlucid (723572)
      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.
    • I don't like hearing of anything of value becoming exclusive to one format or platform, personally.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rwven (663186)

      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! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rotide (1015173) on Friday July 23, 2010 @12:18PM (#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! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Hijacked Public (999535) on Friday July 23, 2010 @12:30PM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rotide (1015173)

        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! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by butterflysrage (1066514) on Friday July 23, 2010 @12:46PM (#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

    • by Biff Stu (654099) on Friday July 23, 2010 @12:32PM (#33005012)

      The author pays the publisher.

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

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ergrthjuyt (1856764)

      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 pi

    • Re:Good! (Score:5, Informative)

      by rwv (1636355) on Friday July 23, 2010 @12:42PM (#33005132) Homepage Journal

      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: (Score:3, Informative)

        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

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by mmontalvo (831939)
          There have been multiple studies that show the majority of the cost is not the printing of the actual book but on editing, and advertisement. The printing is an average of about 10% of the cost. Take a look at http://ireaderreview.com/2009/05/03/book-cost-analysis-cost-of-physical-book-publishing/ [ireaderreview.com] .
          • Re:Good! (Score:4, Insightful)

            by butterflysrage (1066514) on Friday July 23, 2010 @01:34PM (#33005808)

            Maybe I missed it, but how did they gather their data? Does Harry Potter and the Next Big Thing count as one book or one million sold? Does Granny Jem's Guide to Catholic Churches in the North West count as one book or 5 sold?

            Yes, the advertisement on a very select few books can be insane, but just how many books get that treatment? Looking at it from a total books sold per publisher, yes, it can be impressive. However, when looked at amount spent on the average title the numbers trend down drastically.

    • by Danathar (267989)

      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.

    • 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! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by butterflysrage (1066514) on Friday July 23, 2010 @12:56PM (#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! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by LandDolphin (1202876) on Friday July 23, 2010 @01:05PM (#33005462)
        None, because the return on investment would be horrible. Your husband's return on time invested would be better spent being a day laborer outside of Home Depot. He's doing this for the love of the book and not the business aspect of it. Most professional authors wouldn't spend that much time on a single book unless they were doing it as a side project and more of a personal project then a professional project.
      • Re:Good! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by MozeeToby (1163751) on Friday July 23, 2010 @01:13PM (#33005556)

        10 years, or 10 'man-years'? Heh, I bet they spend a man-year just loading the books onto and off of trucks (lets see, 8 hours a day, 1 hour to unload per store... if they sell at ~3000 stores that seems valid), never mind printing, editing, promoting, and selling. Don't get me wrong, that your husband has worked tirelessly for 10 years shows that he has much more dedication than a publisher ever would, but in terms of cost the publisher's are going to be higher.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          You don't write a book 9-5. You live it. I can't count the number of nights I've woken up and found him madly scribbling down some idea he came up with while laying in bed so he won't forget it by the next morning (hell I've done this several times on my own book). So yes, I would call it 10 "man-years" as you don't really get to 'stop' being creative if you want to write anything worth reading.

          There is also the question of how you define "work". Ya, you have to pay those loaders minimum wake to move bo

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by elrous0 (869638) *
      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.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by TubeSteak (669689)

        Seems a little unfair to dump your publisher after you get the fame that they helped you achieve.

        They would dump you in a hot second if it made financial sense.
        The business world and Joe Average have long been playing by different sets of rules...
        Mostly to the detriment of Joe Average.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by SydShamino (547793)

        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.

        Then why didn't the publisher insist on a contract that included all of the author's output for the rest of his or her life, published in any medium?

        Are you trying to imply that the poor, defenseless publisher was roped into signing an inferior contract by a big, powerful no-name author? If the publisher helped make the author famous, then clearly the author was not famous when they signed their first contract with the publisher. In every case the publisher chose to promote them and their work knowing the

  • What took so long? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Rivalz (1431453) on Friday July 23, 2010 @12:20PM (#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: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by easterberry (1826250)
      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: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Rivalz (1431453)

        Um no I disagree they are middle men that are between us and the law. We can choose to represent ourselves if we decide thus making them middle men and not required although highly recommended and by current standards necessary.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      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
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by easterberry (1826250)
        The irony that the book publishing model is less dated than than the music industry publishing model is staggering.
    • 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 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lord Ender (156273) on Friday July 23, 2010 @12:21PM (#33004838) Homepage

    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.

  • by Haffner (1349071) on Friday July 23, 2010 @12:22PM (#33004860)
    Hey, look at this RIAA! This is the record label industry getting murdered, and everyone else benefiting!
  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Friday July 23, 2010 @12:23PM (#33004862) Journal

    >>>"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.

  • I'm not Shocked (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jchawk (127686) on Friday July 23, 2010 @12:25PM (#33004898) Homepage Journal

    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!

    • Here here!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jahudabudy (714731)
      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.
      • by b0bby (201198)

        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 ca

    • by rwv (1636355)

      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.

      U

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Danathar (267989)

      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 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Garwulf (708651) on Friday July 23, 2010 @12:56PM (#33005340) Homepage

      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.

  • the first book offered under this deal will be titled 'Balkanization'. Seems apropos.
  • by Qwavel (733416) on Friday July 23, 2010 @12:27PM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Brett Buck (811747)

      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.

  • 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.

    • by Aladrin (926209)

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

  • by Ngarrang (1023425) on Friday July 23, 2010 @12:50PM (#33005236) Journal

    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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Shados (741919)

      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.

      • by Ngarrang (1023425)

        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?

  • by proxima (165692) on Friday July 23, 2010 @12:53PM (#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.

       

  • > 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.

Stinginess with privileges is kindness in disguise. -- Guide to VAX/VMS Security, Sep. 1984

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