Authors Guild Threatens Amazon For Daring To Allow Library Lending Of Ebooks

from the how-out-of-touch-are-they dept

Ah, the Authors Guild. I don’t think there’s any group out there that has done more to hold back authors and important innovations that those authors need. Any new technology or innovation that comes along, the Authors Guild reflexively freaks out about it. Full text search to help you find books you might want to buy? Not allowed. Letting ebook readers use crappy text-to-speech to read aloud? The Authors Guild makes up a mythical “audio right,” and threatens to sue. Then, of course, this is the same Authors Guild who is suing Google for scanning books and suing five universities for making it easier for students to access orphaned works.

So I guess it should come as no surprise that the group is now freaking out about Amazon’s extremely limited “lending library” feature for ebooks. The service lets Kindle owners “borrow” one book a month for free. To appease potentially angry authors and publishers, Amazon made it clear that this doesn’t actually impact revenue to publishers.

The “vast majority” are there following an agreement with the publishers to include the books for a fixed fee, while “in some cases”, Amazon said it was purchasing the title under standard wholesale terms each time it is borrowed, “as a no-risk trial to demonstrate to publishers the incremental growth and revenue opportunity that this new service presents”.

The Authors Guild’s response is to continue to portray itself as out of touch and clueless on important innovations. It suggested that none of the books in the “lending library” are there legitimately. And it doesn’t care that Amazon still pays when the books are borrowed. Because the Authors Guild’s out of touch views also seem to include a scorched earth provision, where any new innovation they don’t like must be destroyed if it ever so slightly changes the way people enjoy books.

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Companies: amazon, authors guild

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Comments on “Authors Guild Threatens Amazon For Daring To Allow Library Lending Of Ebooks”

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el_segfaulto (profile) says:

No-win situation.

On the one hand, I can understand the fear that the author’s guild has. As far as file size goes, books are miniscule compared to video and audio. Trading vast numbers online is quite simple.

On the other hand, this is going to happen. They can complain about the march of technology as much as they want but if the RIAA and MPAA couldn’t stymy progress they don’t stand a chance.

On the gripping hand, they have always shown themselves to be adversarial to authors and consumers alike and with technology where it is I wouldn’t mind seeing creators streamline things by hiring freelance editors (my girlfriend does this), freelance artists (my brother does this), and a publicity company. The one-time fees may be a bit hairy, but I wonder if at the end of the day the cut an author gives to Amazon would be less than that which he gives to another publishing house and the guild.

out_of_the_blue says:

Every "tiny" new step threatens a TOTAL loss of control, though!

And since the Authors DO own the total rights — you don’t merely because new gadgets come along — then they still get to control ALL uses. I think that’s the ONLY justifiable arrangement.

But as a sop to you guys: I’m still against effectively perpetual copyright. The deal was 28 years or whatever, so take all the old stuff that you wish, in any format.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Every "tiny" new step threatens a TOTAL loss of control, though!

And since the Authors DO own the total rights — you don’t merely because new gadgets come along — then they still get to control ALL uses

Ah Blue, you’re adorable. Everything is OH SO SIMPLE when you have a point to make about it, and we’re all dolts for not seeing it – but everything is OH SO COMPLEX every time someone else makes a point, and they are a dolt for thinking it’s simple.

Anonymous Coward says:

If the library buys a physical book it’s free to lend it out without paying the author. Now if it’s an “e-book” all of a sudden libraries are illegal and deemed infringement.

Never mind that the “licensing” cost is the same as the physical purchasing cost. Never mind that the AG is getting PAID for this library. Seems to me like the AG has a good thing here and is about to bite the hand that feeds it.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Every "tiny" new step threatens a TOTAL loss of control, though!

ALL uses? Ever hear of fair use?
I particularly wouldn’t like it if say, Stephen King (my favourite author) published a new hardback and said that anytime I read it, since he’s the all-mighty author, he hereby dictates that I have to be strapped to a machine that will electrocute me if someone looks over my shoulder. Or I sneeze too loud.
Now, I want you to read that, and then try and explain to me again why total control is the only justifiable arrangement.

Bengie says:

Even worse than it sounds

There was another article about this same thing. The above link left out a VERY important piece of info.

The $79/year premium account lets you “rent” an ebook once per month for “free”. It’s not actually for “free”. Amazon actually pays the authors the FULL price that they normally get from Amazon as if someone purchased the book.

From the authors perspective, they get paid as if the book was sold.

I really don’t see the issue. It has to be a control thing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Maybe the disagree with the program on a philosophical level. They don’t feel that customers should come to expect free books. It is their work and at their discretion to determine how their works are distributed and marketed. Manufacturers have yanked their products from store shelves in the past when they didn’t like the way their product was being marketed, I really don’t see that this is any different. Just because it’s digitized it is still a product and it’s marketing may be subject to contractual obligations on the part of the vendor and/or the store.

ChrisB (profile) says:

Think about this ...

The book and entertainment industry better not push too hard, and just be happy with the way things are. Think about all those DVD’s and books sitting on your shelf. By the first sale doctrine, you can “lend” them to other people without violating any laws. So if you don’t watch a movie for a year, you could conceviable “lend” it to over 4000 people. If the technology is created that ensures a digital copy can only be watched by one person at a time, then I could be lending my movies and books out to people all over the world, and not break any law, because I’m not “copying” anything. All this twisting in the wind by the media industry is to prevent this.

Anonymous Coward says:

Every "tiny" new step threatens a TOTAL loss of control, though!

>And since the Authors DO own the total rights — you don’t merely because new gadgets come along — then they still get to control ALL uses.

Libraries are killing the book industry.

Oh, wait. They didn’t, and they won’t. Your tiny new step threatening a TOTAL loss of control is a joke. Moving on.

Susan Solomon says:

Every "Tiny" New Step

What we’re seeing with Amazon is nothing new. Having practice law in then entertainment field from the 70’s through the esarly 90’s, I experienced the onset of what has become raging new technolgy–CD’s instead of LP’s, disgital sampling, the development of home vidiotaping from television. What we’re experiencing today is similar to the development of recording at a time when sheet music was basis of a composer’s income, and then redio stations couldn’t understand why they needed tom pay royalties for using copywrited material (after all, they insisted, they were promoting the music; making iut more popular. In each instance, operators of the new technology can’t understand why the creators of what they sell must be paid for their work. In the record industry digital sampling issues were significantly resolved when RIAA and groups representing the publishers and writers negotiated the approach to royalites. If course, that didn’t happen until numerous lawsuits were filed.

Nathaniel (user link) says:

Who are these people?

Who makes up the Authors Guild? It sounds like a front for large publishers. I would think that the majority of self published authors would want as many people as possible to read their books, even if not everyone buys a copy. Getting your name out there and having people interested in your work is going to benefit an author in the future.

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