I Want My Rights — the Upside to Publishers Owning Digital Rights

Today’s podcast for cleaning the kitchen was talking about Kindles and iPads and how they don’t necessarily compete. Kindle wants to sell books. Apple wants to sell hardware. They each offer a bit of the other, to get things going, but overall it’s better for both if they help each other (and us).

Authors these days are often frustrated with the standard contract, that included electronic rights. The author can’t put the book online, anywhere, and if the publisher stalls the eReading community can’t buy it.

(We won’t get into rights for storytelling.)

Yes, the publishers are stalling. Not all of them, but enough to make news. I notice most of them come to an agreement with Kindle fairly quickly.

Now for the other side.

Take a publisher with thousands of books. Assuming they want to issue the catalogue electronically — perhaps just send the whole thing to Kindle for them to handle — they need to:

a) have the words in electronic form — probably not a problem for books that were typeset electronically. Get a decent programmer to mass-convert them to Kindle format. Done.

b) have the rights to do so. If the publisher doesn’t own those rights, then they have to contact each author and negotiate. Ain’t gonna happen.

So, author beware, again. It’s nice to hold all the rights in your hot little hand, but don’t tie the publishers’ hands. If they’re willing to do the work of converting it to eReader format and putting it in the online stores, let them. You’ll get more readers through, “Oh, it’s on BigEReaderSite” than “It’s on my website, http://www.authorname2.aut . First you download the file, then you drag it to the Reader icon.”

Crystal ball time. If the publisher will, in a reasonable time, get their entire catalogue online, stay out of their way. It’s better for all of us in the long run if they change.

It reminds me of the advice we were given when preparing our wills. Give it room to breathe, and don’t try to control the world from the grave.

There’s a library in the US that received a huge bequest for books. The library doesn’t need that many books — it needs a place to store them and a modern computer catalogue. The money is accumulating interest rather than being used.

Maybe something like, “Either of us can publish it online. Author keeps sales from authors’ site. If Publisher gets their act together puts it in the standard online stores Author will change his website to say, “Buy it there.”

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