E-Book Author Complains About Unauthorized Physical Copies

from the backwards-day dept

Last week we linked to the news that once again, J.K. Rowling will not allow e-book versions of the new Harry Potter book over fears of piracy. Now, a lot of people are talking about a story that is almost the reverse of this situation. Popular blogger and marketing guru Seth Godin is angry after seeing a copy of his e-book, Everyone’s an Expert, appear on Amazon as a physical book. This is definitely not your typical piracy story, as the e-book is available for free, whereas this unauthorized physical version is being sold at a price. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Godin’s complaint carries much water, since he chose a Creative Commons license for this book that allowed for this kind of reproduction. So, not only is the physical copy legitimate, it appears that this is what’s supposed to happen when someone puts this kind of license on a book. If an author is not interested in making money, but in spreading their ideas around, then it makes sense to allow third parties to print up copies of the book, and recoup their costs. It seems that Godin basically made a mistake by licensing the book in a manner contrary to his own wishes, which is unfortunate, but it’s a good lesson to other writers that may be interested in Create Commons licensing that they should take the time to really see what it means before slapping it on willy nilly. At the same time, there’s nothing stopping Godin from doing what he’s doing now: promoting the fact that you can still get the ebook for free from him, rather than paying the fee to whoever is printing up copies and selling them. If anything, it seems likely that this hubbub should only serve to get more attention for his book — which is just the type of crazy marketing stunts we thought Godin liked.

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Comments on “E-Book Author Complains About Unauthorized Physical Copies”

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W.B. McNamara (profile) says:

Question of control?

Yeah, Godin’s reaction was really interesting, and certainly came across as legitimate outrage. Though one would want the outrage to appear legit if it were a marketing tactic…hmmm…

Anyway, as far as I (and a quick Google search) can recall, this is the first example of a known, popular individual CC licensing something “incorrectly,” and I think that there are a couple of issues in play here.

The first is Godin’s (relatively reasonable) concern that a “new edition” of this book appearing kicks off a series of events, including the Amazon “something new from this author you’re interested in” emails. Are people being “willfully misled” by the publisher or these emails, though? Debatable, in my view.

Amazon tacitly assumes a copyright-based model: new editions are produced by the copyright holders, and are therefore worth telling people about. Creative Commons commercial-ok licensed content, where any publisher can put out a totally legitimate edition of something for any reason or no reason at all? The system doesn’t know how to handle those yet. Unfortunate in many ways, but I’m not prepared to call that misleading at this point.

The other issue that I see is that many people don’t fully realize the implications of releasing content under a CC license. (Though that may or may not be the case here.)

While basking in the ideological beauty of a CC license it’s easy to forget that one of the “rights” you’re frequently giving up is the control granted by copyright. Visions of people doing things that you like (and approve of) with your creation dance in your head, making it easy to overlook that you’re also permitting people to do things that you don’t like or approve of with your creation.

ScaredOfTheMan says:

I don’t think this a marketing tactic, this guy is a marketing guru, he already has a huge and loyal following; This screams of amature opportunism, someone is taking a shot at tricking people into thinking this is Seth’s book when its not. Then selling it on amazon…they are probably making $5 a book which might cover their printing costs and a little more.

Sleazy yes, illegal no

anyone who buys it should feel silly as it is available for free as a PDF download which they could print themselves.

KelpBoots says:

Moma Says...

Although if the other company is selling it at a large profit, that doesn’t seem quite fair.

If i can sell what you’re giving away then Im an enterprenur and you’re an idiot.

Although of course the reason they can sell “it” is because their “it” is not his “it”. They’ve added value by altering its form factor and availability. They’ve differentiated their “it” enough from his “it” that now “it” actually has some distinct and recognizable value.

Seems like this author needs to stop writing and start reading…. say “Contractual Law 101” followed up by “Marketing for Dummies” cause clearly not “Everyones an Expert” (which i suspect is the point of his book, which in turn makes this whole thing seem even more ridculous)…..

Maybe he could write another one entitled… “Moma says stupid is as stupid does”….. or maybe “Whiny is what whiny wuz”… seems like hes already got all the material he’d ever need….. although Im no expert.

comboman says:

Compete with Free?

I’m surprised you missed an opportunity to cite yet another example of “competing with free”. People have been making money for years selling disks of freeware or open source software that can be downloaded for free (I recently stumbled across the website ‘www-openoffice.com’ that sells for $47 the open source office suite that can be downloaded for free at ‘www.openoffice.org’). Why shouldn’t someone make money selling a print version of a free e-book? At least there’s more ‘value added’ in printing (not everyone likes reading on a screen) than in download software and burning it on a disc.

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