Random House Realizing That Its Old Contracts Don't Cover Ebooks

from the but-it-doesn't-want-you-to-know dept

A few years back, publisher Random House lost a series of legal battles against an ebook publisher, over the question of whether or not Random House's basic contracts covered ebooks as well. The courts ruled that they did not. While Random House's more recent contracts do explicitly add in ebooks, it was still surprising to find the company trying to fight this battle again, with regards to the heirs of author William Styron's works. Random House was telling authors, including Styron's heirs, that they could not publish ebooks with other publishers.

However, knowing full well that Random House had lost that claim in the past, it looks like Styron's heirs stood up for themselves, and Random House has backed down, allowing them to publish some of his works as ebooks with another publisher. Random House is insisting that this is "an exception," and that it does not apply to other authors. Of course, that's unlikely to be true for authors who signed agreements with Random House prior to it including specific language to deal with ebooks -- meaning that many may now look to publish electronic versions elsewhere.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    NAMELESS.ONE, Apr 28th, 2010 @ 1:22am

    so a Streisand affect again.

    my bet is random house is like big music and movie labels taking all the profits and stiffing the writers

    so they went elsewhere and got a better deal.
    What ya bet that after the written paper book contract is up all those people you gave grief to DO NOT SIGN with you.

    Streisand affect again.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    bdhoro, Apr 28th, 2010 @ 5:24am

    Publisher? Who cares?

    I'm a little confused as to why any writer would deal with a publisher for eBooks. I mean how hard is it to format an eBook and post it up for download?
    It's just writers paying large percentages for publishers to perform quite a simple task they could do themselves. What benefit is there to have your eBook "published"? Especially if there is already a print version...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Michael, Apr 28th, 2010 @ 5:32am

    Re: Publisher? Who cares?

    Although you are obviously technically proficient, I'm sure there are lots of authors that are not. They may not want to be bothered. I know an author who continues to write in pen and sends the hand-written manuscripts to her publisher because she does not like to use computers.

    Sure, new writers that come from the computer age may be perfectly willing to take this on, but sometimes it is nice to concentrate on your art and let someone else handle the business and technical end of things.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Someday, Apr 28th, 2010 @ 5:40am

    Re: Re: Publisher? Who cares?

    I hate it when you hit two keys at the same time and they get jammed. Someday, someone will figure out a better way to type stuff.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    Steve R. (profile), Apr 28th, 2010 @ 5:47am

    Land Grab

    Why is it that when a new technology is introduced that there is an immediate claim that this mandates a "new" license for which we have to cough up even more money. Along these lines, Mike wrote a while back Will The Authors Guild Freak Out About Text To Speech On The iPad?. I fail to see basis for claiming that an IP property right is somehow expanded just because a new technology comes along. What about the property rights of the consumer?

    When something is produced it should carry a generic license that allows the product to be used as the consumer sees fit. After all, the consumer has bought the rights to use the product. This consumer rights shouldn't be artificially segmented and capriciously diminished by the copyright holder. For example, expanding the concept of public performance: Irish Collection Society Wants Hotels To Pay Performance Fees For Music Played In Guest Rooms. If I recall correctly, there was even a case where the claim was made that playing music to barnyard animals was considered a "public performance". The consistent expansion of "licensing" as a property rights land grab to the detriment of the consumer is another example of how copyright, as a concept, has morphed into nothing more than an extortion racket.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2010 @ 5:48am

    Re: Re: Publisher? Who cares?

    oh noes! dont tell the masnick. you are suppose to suffer for your art, selling t-shirts and miniputt games and giving away your lifes work for free. ebooks are just information and information wants to be free. they need to just give it away for free and go out on speaking tours and hawking fan ware. yeah, that is the way to do it!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    Jim D (profile), Apr 28th, 2010 @ 5:53am

    Why authors don't DIY eBooks

    Those saying "why don's authors sell eBooks directly?" should check out SciFi author Charlie Stross's postings on the publishing industry, which answers such questions and a whole lot more in a series of fantastic posts.

    The short answer is skill set, opportunity costs, and frequently lack of access to electronic versions of the edited manuscript. Here's the first post in that series:

    http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2010/02/common-misconceptions-about-pu.html

    His books are great too, with some freely available.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    Hephaestus (profile), Apr 28th, 2010 @ 6:18am

    Re: Re: Publisher? Who cares?

    "Although you are obviously technically proficient, I'm sure there are lots of authors that are not. They may not want to be bothered."

    This is one of those things that makes the profit center of my brain light up. Become a middle man charging 5% for authors who just dont want to deal with online sales.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    Dementia (profile), Apr 28th, 2010 @ 6:19am

    Re: Re: Re: Publisher? Who cares?

    No, Mike says find a better business model. If it happens to include time spent with fans and selling t-shirts, great. Otherwise, if you can make it just buy selling books, go for it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    Hephaestus (profile), Apr 28th, 2010 @ 6:24am

    Re: Why authors don't DIY eBooks

    "The short answer is skill set, opportunity costs, and frequently lack of access to electronic versions of the edited manuscript. Here's the first post in that series:"

    The short answer is skill set - Answer: find a high school kid

    opportunity costs - Answer: what in the hell are you talking about?

    frequently lack of access to electronic versions - Answer: HS kid, scanner, OCR software.

    Problem solved.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    icon
    chris (profile), Apr 28th, 2010 @ 6:37am

    Re: Re: Re: Publisher? Who cares?

    you are suppose to suffer for your art, selling t-shirts and miniputt games and giving away your lifes work for free. ebooks are just information and information wants to be free. they need to just give it away for free and go out on speaking tours and hawking fan ware.

    you can either give it away or have it given away for you. it doesn't matter what you do, the market already decided. you can either get on board or continue to tilt at windmills.

    pro tip: if you give it away yourself, you have a shot at making some money. if someone gives it away for you, you are guaranteed to not make anything.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2010 @ 7:50am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Publisher? Who cares?

    see the post by chris below. if you dont give it away someone else will. end discussion there is no business model in selling content. content is free. content is infinite. it has no market price. so its sell t-shirts or get a mcjob. the discussion ends there. the masnick has spoken, and the masses understand.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2010 @ 7:52am

    Re: Land Grab

    no it was the playing of music in a barnyard that was a workplace for various people. the animals didnt have much to do with it. that it was a barn or an office doesnt change the nature of the performance.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    icon
    Jim D (profile), Apr 28th, 2010 @ 9:49am

    Re: Re: Why authors don't DIY eBooks

    Answer: Find a High School Kid There is a difference between an electronic file containing the text of the book and a professionally formatted eBook. It is similar to the difference between a stapled stack of photo copies and a professionally bound book, and presentation will effect your volume of sales. Also, it takes time, as does OCR followed by proof-reading and editing. This is where "opportunity costs" come in to play. It's an important concept in economics: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opportunity_cost In short though, opportunity cost in this case means that time spent prepping, publishing, and managing the sales of an eBook is time that is not spent writing new material, which is the actual scarce product of highest value that the author has for sale. Publishers provide a division of labor, where the better trained professionals focus on what they do best-- writers write, copy editors proof read, etc. Honestly, if you have any interest in how the publishing industry works, from the pragmatic concessions made to the irrationalities of historic business practices still in use, take a look at Stross's postings. For your average novel writer, he covers it pretty effectively: http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2010/02/common-misconceptions-about-pu.html You don't have to agree with him, but he's got the insider knowledge on this and he's tech geek himself so he knows his way around these issues from that angle too.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Apr 28th, 2010 @ 10:06am

    Re: Re: Land Grab

    no it was the playing of music in a barnyard that was a workplace for various people. the animals didnt have much to do with it. that it was a barn or an office doesnt change the nature of the performance.

    So wrong yet again:

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20090327/1113014276.shtml
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/new s/newstopics/howaboutthat/5061004/Woman-who-plays-classical-music-to-soothe-horses-told-to-get-licen ce.html

    It was entirely about the horses.

    Let's see... will this particular AC admit he was wrong? He's never done it... even when being blatantly wrong on the facts as he is nearly every time (including every post on this thread where he makes up what my philosophy is, which has nothing to do with what I've said).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2010 @ 10:14am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Publisher? Who cares?

    "All art is quite useless." - Oscar Wilde

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2010 @ 10:16am

    Re: Re: Re: Publisher? Who cares?

    "Information wants to be free. Information also wants to be expensive. Information wants to be free because it has become so cheap to distribute, copy, and recombine - too cheap to meter. It wants to be expensive because it can be immeasurably valuable to the recipient. That tension will not go away. It leads to endless wrenching debate about price, copyright, 'intellectual property', the moral rightness of casual distribution, because each round of new devices makes the tension worse, not better." - Stewart Brand, 1984

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    icon
    Jim D (profile), Apr 28th, 2010 @ 10:16am

    Re: Re: Why authors don't DIY eBooks

    My apologies-- here's a properly formatted response:

    Answer: Find a High School Kid

    There is a difference between an electronic file containing the text of the book and a professionally formatted eBook. It is similar to the difference between a stapled stack of photo copies and a professionally bound book, and presentation will effect your volume of sales.

    Also, it takes time, as does OCR followed by proof-reading and editing. This is where "opportunity costs" come in to play. It's an important concept in economics: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opportunity_cost

    In short though, opportunity cost in this case means that time spent prepping, publishing, and managing the sales of an eBook is time that is not spent writing new material, which is the actual scarce product of highest value that the author has for sale.

    Publishers provide a division of labor, where the better trained professionals focus on what they do best-- writers write, copy editors proof read, etc.

    Honestly, if you have any interest in how the publishing industry works, from the pragmatic concessions made to the irrationalities of historic business practices still in use, take a look at Stross's postings. For your average novel writer, he covers it pretty effectively: http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2010/02/common-misconceptions-about-pu.html

    You don't have to agree with him, but he's got the insider knowledge on this and he's tech geek himself so he knows his way around these issues from that angle too.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    icon
    Jim D (profile), Apr 28th, 2010 @ 10:17am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Publisher? Who cares?

    "That Oscar Wilde fellow has always shown himself to be quite the dolt." - Oscar Wilde

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Stephen, Apr 28th, 2010 @ 10:22am

    Re: Re: Re: Why authors don't DIY eBooks

    Thank you for saving me from having to write this myself.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2010 @ 10:45am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Publisher? Who cares?

    "For Wilde, the purpose of art was to guide life, and to do this it must concern itself only with the pursuit of beauty, disdaining morality."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oscar_wilde#Themes_and_influences

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2010 @ 11:36am

    Re: Re: Re: Land Grab

    Why don't you fix your comment system? Comments should be collapsible, and all comments from this particular user's IP address (or all comments that use the phrase "the masnick") should auto-collapse.

    The comments are the worst part of this site: you really have to wade through a lot of crap to find the gems.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    book publishers, Jul 17th, 2010 @ 8:38pm

    Publishers provide a division of labor, where the better trained professionals focus on what they do best-- writers write, copy editors proof read, etc. But I hate it when you hit two keys at the same time and they get jammed. Someday, someone will figure out a better way to type stuff.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Eyelastin, Jul 22nd, 2010 @ 5:11am

    Eyelastin

    Thanks For Sharing Such a Nice and Important Information with Us.I really appreciate Your Work And I am Bookmarking this page For Future references.Once again Thanks

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Jackson, Oct 17th, 2010 @ 1:07am

    Useful OCR tool

    If you are today looking for an OCR tool compatible with any platforms like Windows, Linux and Mac, a site that can do OCR for you online may attract you: goodocr.com. The result looks promising to me (English only).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This