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Why Are There More Old Songs On iTunes Than Old eBooks? 77

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-blame-the-schools dept.
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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Why Are There More Old Songs On iTunes Than Old eBooks?

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  • by koan (80826)

    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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • by nospam007 (722110) *

      "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'.

  • I'm sure we all already knew this though.
  • 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.

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

    • by Alan Shutko (5101)

      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).

      • 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 t
        • 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, an

          • 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 devic

            • 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....

    • 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 wi

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

    • "Itunes is for profit"

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

  • by Anonymous Coward

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

    Thank the crazy Russians for bringing us resources like this

    • by Trentula (1684992) *
      Library Genesis (http://libgen.org/) has been great when I need to find texts of the academic variety.
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @10:05AM (#46492185) Homepage

    ...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."

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

  • by bjohnson (3225) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @10:06AM (#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...

    • 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 lawyer

  • 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 mig

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    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.

    • by laird (2705)

      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

  • by fermion (181285) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @10:27AM (#46492327) Homepage Journal
    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.
    • 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

  • by laird (2705) <lairdp@@@gmail...com> on Saturday March 15, 2014 @10:47AM (#46492477) Journal

    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.

    • by gclef (96311)

      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.

    • 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.
    • by jedidiah (1196)

      > 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 19

      • by laird (2705)

        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 "d

  • 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

    • by westlake (615356)

      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.

    • by nospam007 (722110) *

      "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?

      • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

        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.

  • Why do you encourage Apple by buying stuff there?
  • 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

    • by fuzznutz (789413)

      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.

  • .. 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 lowe


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • > 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

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