by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
contracts, ebooks

Big Name Authors Realize Their Old Contracts Don't Cover eBooks; Route Around Old Publishers To Release New Versions

from the there's-a-legal-fight-coming... dept

Late last year, we wrote about a legal fight, where Random House was fighting some of its authors who claimed that their old publishing contracts did not cover ebooks. Those authors wanted to go off and publish ebooks via other partners (or even directly themselves). Random House tried to claim that even though the contracts didn't specifically cover ebooks, that it was more or less implied. The problem, of course, was that Random House had already lost a case about this very issue years back. So, this April, the company was forced to concede with the one author they were fighting -- though it claimed this was an "exception."

Except some other big name, old time authors know better. They've been realizing that they could be free to take their ebook versions elsewhere, and now they're doing exactly that. A bunch of really well known authors, working via their agents, have decided to route around their publishers and offer some of the most popular books of all time as ebooks directly on Amazon's Kindle, without going through a publishing house. Among the books released through this effort are works from Philip Roth, Martin Amis, Vladimir Nabokov, Hunter S Thompson, John Updike, William Burroughs and Saul Bellow along with many others. Basically, some of the biggest names in literature from the 20th century.

Of course, more recent authors won't have this luxury directly, since new publishing contracts for books cover ebooks as well, but it will be interesting to see how well these new ebooks do for authors -- and if it leads to more authors realizing they can just self-publish outside of the traditional publisher system. I'm still not sure that makes as much sense, say, as going "indie" from a music standpoint, as publishers still offer a tremendous amount of value that's hard to recreate, but at the very least, it could open the door to more specialized "indie" publishers, who are more author-friendly.

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  1. icon
    Richard (profile), 26 Jul 2010 @ 2:54am

    I'm sorry, I could be misreading you...

    But it looks like you're almost saying that having literature locked into a single proprietary format, protected (in the US at least) by the force of criminal law, is a good thing?

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