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Industry News: Amazon loosens proprietary chains a little, PublishAmerica sued, Google settlement in France

June 16, 2012

Amazon makes two books available on others e-book stores

Until now, Amazon has used its proprietary e-book format to force you to use its e-reader to buy its books from its bookstore. That may be starting to change, as it makes two titles, Oliver Potzsch’s The Hangman’s Daughter and The Dark Monk, available on Barnes and Noble, Apple’s iBookstore, and Kobo‘s e-book store at slightly higher prices than the Kindle Store. The books are available for $3.99 at the Kindle store, and $7.69 at Kobo, $8.99 at Barnes and Noble, and the list price of $9.99 at the iBookstore.

What does this mean to you? With Amazon moving into the publishing arena, it faces a quandary about making its books available in formats that run on other e-readers. Keeping them off other readers would theoretically force readers to purchase a Kindle to read Amazon-published books. But it would also reduce readership to only those who own Kindles (or force readers who don’t to download Kindle reader apps for their laptops or tablets). This could be the start of the proprietary approach starting to break down. Or not.

Google reaches agreement with authors in French settlement

While the battle between Google and authors in this country seems to drag on forever, a settlement has been reached in France. Google has agreed with French publishers and authors to allow an opt-in model for works to be included in its digital library. The deal means that Google could not include out-of-print books in its forthcoming Google Play online bookstore unless copyright holders agree to their presence there. A similar legal battle is ongoing in this country, in which Google’s agreement with authors and publishers was more or less struck down by Judge Denny Chin, who strongly urged a similar opt-in requirement.

What does this mean to you? This agreement could add pressure for Google to allow an opt-in approach in the United States. This battle only covers orphan works, that is, works Google believes do not have copyright protection. Google’s approach has been to require any actual rights holders to opt-out–that is, notify Google that their work should not be included in its forthcoming electronic library. Overall, the legal direction of opting in or opting out is relatively narrow here, but has bigger implications. Forcing rights holders to opt out would require eternal vigilance, something many wouldn’t be able to maintain. Forcing publishers to get  permission from rights holders would cripple Google’s ambition to create the worlds largest digital library.

Class-action lawsuit filed against PublishAmerica

A class-action lawsuit has been filed against PublishAmerica in Maryland District Court in Baltimore by three authors. The lawsuit alleges that the publisher promises to publish their book at no cost, but instead entices authors to sign over rights to their works for seven to ten years, then offers an array of for-pay marketing options that often amount to nothing. The suit alleges that PA offers little in the way of editorial services and effectively blackmails authors into paying a fee to get them to offer the books at a competitive price. In fairness, this news comes from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America website, which has often been antagonistic against PA. In additional fairness, PA is the company that said it would deliver your book to JK Rowling’s home for $50. You could mail it for a lot less, or just take it out in the backyard and bury it for free and the same things would happen. When Rowling objected, PA threatened to sue her.

What does this mean to you? If you’re considering Publish America for your book, it means you might want to look again. Personally, I have a friend who self-published with PA and was very pleased with the process. But some of PA’s antics, including charting people to drop unsolicited books off at JK Rowling’s house would give me pause if I was considering dealing with them. If you want to self-publish, you should check the veracity of the company you’re considering publishing with.

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One Comment
  1. June 16, 2012 2:24 pm

    Chris, Thanks for this excellent post, especially “what it could mean for you.” We writers need to keep up with this stuff and it’s not easy. Again, thank you!

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