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
    Bill Jackson (profile), 26 Jul 2010 @ 1:36pm

    Yes, ads in books, been

    there done that, now in e-books?

    What about free readers that sense your eyeball position and can make sure you do not ignore the ads that leap to your fovea until they determine you have read those 30 seconds ads that tick down to zero on various news sites.

    Arrow to the heart for that idea, but I suppose there needs to be a means to pay the writer.
    Sell the book for $2, or even $1 and give the writer all but 25 cents, which will run the e-pay front end. If the writer wants to rent an editor to go over the text to hone it, let him pay the editor 10 cents a copy, or whatever they agree on.
    A good editor can deal with many authors and in time might have 1000 books in his stable ticking over at 10 cents per sale. That could be a good living as long as you edit well and fast...the author thinks it is free editing. Commission editing has a very low burden.
    I admit highly technical books with small numbers of buyers will require higher sales fees and edit costs, and may well need to be locked in some way.
    Sales of a lot of engineering texts also need to be shaken up. They have a large client base, but are very costly due to the unholy alliance between school publishers and professors to bring out a new edition every year. Yes, I know all of science become obsolete annually, thus you need that rapid change....NOT

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