Monthly Archives: December 2008
December 11, 2008. I’ve been talking to booksellers lately who report that times are hard. And local booksellers aren’t known for vast reserves of capital, so a serious dip in sales can be devastating. Booksellers don’t lose enough money, however, to receive congressional attention. A government bailout isn’t in the cards.
We don’t want bookstores to die. Authors need them, and so do neighborhoods. So let’s mount a book-buying splurge. Get your friends together, go to your local bookstore and have a book-buying party. Buy the rest of your Christmas presents, but that’s just for starters. Clear out the mysteries, wrap up the histories, beam up the science fiction! Round up the westerns, go crazy for self-help, say yes to the university press books! Get a load of those coffee-table books, fatten up on slim volumes of verse, and take a chance on romance!
There will be birthdays in the next twelve months; books keep well; they’re easy to wrap: buy those books now. Buy replacements for any books looking raggedy on your shelves. Stockpile children’s books as gifts for friends who look like they may eventually give birth. Hold off on the flat-screen TV and the GPS (they’ll be cheaper after Christmas) and buy many, many books. Then tell the grateful booksellers, who by this time will be hanging onto your legs begging you to stay and live with their cat in the stockroom: “Got to move on, folks. Got some books to write now. You see…we’re the Authors Guild.”
Enjoy the holidays.
Roy Blount Jr.
President, Authors Guild
Addendum: Forward and Post!
December 11, 2008. The Guild’s staff informs me that many of you are writing to ask whether you can forward and post my holiday message encouraging orgiastic book-buying. Yes! Forward! Yes! Post! Sound the clarion call to every corner of the Internet: Hang in there, bookstores! We’re coming! And we’re coming to buy! To buy what? To buy books! Gimme a B! B! Gimme an O! O! Gimme another O! Another O! Gimme a K! K! Gimme an S! F! No, not an F, an S. We’re spelling BOOKS!
Adapted from Executive Director Paul Aiken’s opening statement at the October 28 press conference announcing the settlement.
It’s a pleasure to be here to jointly announce what may be the biggest book deal in U.S. publishing history.
It’s been a long and arduous negotiation. Here’s one yardstick, to give you some perspective: We first proposed the core terms for this settlement to Google at our general counsel’s office 29 months ago, a full nine months before Barack Obama announced his presidential candidacy.
We had issues to resolve with Google, of course, and nearly as many issues to resolve with publishers. We repeatedly faced hard issues that rarely yielded to easy solutions. Smart, creative people like Richard Sarnoff of Random House, John Sargent of Macmillan, Google’s David Drummond and Alexander Macgillivray and Dan Clancy, and the authors’ legal team of Mike Boni and Joanne Zack racked their brains to find their way through a forest of competing concerns. We all doggedly worked through these issues because we all knew we were onto something big.
I’d like to take a moment to talk about how the authors approached this challenge. Authors are often considered complicated people. We don’t agree with that. In fact, I can tell you very simply what all authors like: They like their books to be read, and, except for the most financially perverse of authors, they like a good royalty check.
Knowing this was a big help as we negotiated with a roomful of publishers and one of the world’s most successful technology companies. It gave us a couple of guideposts for nearly every decision along the way. We had a major disagreement with Google about copyright law. We still do, and probably always will. We didn’t see eye to eye with publishers on book contract law. I guarantee we never will. For the sake of this agreement, however, we were all able to set those differences aside.
The task before us was to take Google’s audacious library digitization project and transform it into something both good for readers and agreeable to the people who write and publish books. To do that, we found we had to make the project even more audacious.
We succeeded at that. And as a result, we expect that a vast repository of books—millions upon millions of out-of-print books and many in-print books—will find a new home and new readers online.
A quick example of this transformation: The library digitization effort originally had the aim, among other things, of showing three- or four-line snippets of text from scanned books in response to users’ queries on Google. Under the agreement we’re announcing today, Google will be able to display entire pages of text for most of this repository in response to online search requests.
This agreement goes far beyond that, however.
According to the American Library Association, there are some 16,500 public library buildings in the U.S. If the court approves our settlement, each of these buildings would be offered a free, online portal to this trove of books. Should the library choose to allow it, patrons would be able to print an unlimited number of pages from these books, for a reasonable per page fee, to read at their leisure, giving new meaning and immediacy to “print on demand.”
We intend also to offer institutional subscriptions to colleges and universities. Colleges will be able to offer their students unlimited access, right from their dorm rooms, to these books. Faculty members of the smallest and most remote colleges will have instantaneous access to this vast collection of books compiled from some of the finest academic libraries in the country.
Consumers will benefit as well. Individuals wanting to go beyond browsing a book in this collection will be able to purchase the unlimited right to read and print that book from a personal online bookshelf: Publishing’s long tail is poised to grow much, much longer. We’re confident authors will be pleased: We followed our guideposts. All of these uses hold the promise of helping an author find new readers, and all will result in revenues, most of which will go to authors and publishers.
I haven’t talked about the money in the settlement. There’s a lot of money involved—Google has agreed to pay $125 million—but the money was never our chief concern, and ultimately, it’s not what’s most important about this agreement.
There’s an inherent conflict between the Internet, the largest, most efficient copying machine that ever was, and copyright, which seeks, in its efforts to protect literary and other rights, to regulate part of that machine. The name of the class-action lawsuit, Authors Guild v. Google, frames this conflict in its purest form.
But you never know what’s possible until you start talking things over. We think we’ve arrived at a particularly fruitful accommodation between the demands of the Internet and the needs of copyright, for an important corner of the Web.
January 5, 2009: Notice is mailed to rightsholders around the world and published in newspapers and magazines. A preliminary list of books covered by the settlement becomes available to rightsholders.
September 4, 2009: The last day to opt out of the settlement as a whole. The online list of books covered by the settlement is final.
October 7, 2009: A court hearing will take place to determine the fairness of the settlement.
January 5, 2010: The claims filing deadline.
December 4, 2008. The landmark settlement between the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and Google promises to create new markets for out-of print books, while vastly improving reader access to those books.
The settlement will establish a new not-for-profit organization controlled by authors and publishers, the Book Rights Registry, which will collect and distribute revenues from Google and maintain a database on rightsholders. The board will be composed of an equal number of author and publisher representatives, initially appointed by the Authors Guild and the AAP. Google will provide start-up funds for the registry; ongoing funding will come from an administrative fee the Registry will draw from overall revenue.
The Google Book Search “library” will be composed of both out-of-print and in-print books. Out-ofprint books scanned by Google from academic libraries are included in the database by default, although authors or publishers may request that specific books be removed. In-print books work in opposite fashion: They are not included without the approval of the author and publisher. One of the first tasks Google will have is to help determine what is in print and what is out of print, by discovering which books are commercially available.
Out-of-print books are the central focus of the project. The goal was not to displace the traditional market for in-print books, but to create a new market for out-of-print books. Many books that were unavailable to the general public, and thus earned nothing for their authors, will get a second chance as a result of the settlement.
Authors can easily opt out of the system through the Book Rights Registry. Authors can contact the Registry and say, for example, that they want some of their titles available and others unavailable—and can change this later on.
All licensing revenues go initially to Google, which keeps its 37% share and forwards the remaining 63% to the Book Rights Registry. The Registry then forwards the appropriate amount to rightsholders, keeping an administrative fee. Google also passes on usage data, which determines how the Registry distributes payments.
The revenue split between authors and publishers includes several different categories. For out-of-print books, there are three possibilities:
• If the rights have reverted to the author, he or she gets 100% of the income, minus the Registry’s fee.
• If the rights have not reverted, and the book was published after 1986, there is a 50–50 split between the author and publisher.
• If the book was published before 1987, the revenue split is 65–35 between the author and the publisher, the majority going to the author.
For in-print books, the split depends on the terms of the book contract between author and publisher.
The arrangement creates four initial sources of revenue: Institutional licensing, purchase of individual online editions, advertising, and fees from printing at public access terminals available at public libraries and higher educational institutions. Institutional licensing promises to be the most significant economically. Google will license unlimited access to the database to colleges and universities for a flat fee based on the number of students and faculty.
The second source of revenue is from individual online use, which allows individuals to set up accounts with Google Book Search and pay to access particular books. Google will establish initial prices on books ranging from $1.99 to $29.99, but these can be changed later by authors or publishers. These online editions will not be downloaded by users; instead, account holders will log in to view books they’ve bought through the system.
The same 37–63 split will apply to the third source of income, advertisements. When readers use Google Book Search individually, not through a university license, they will see ads—plain text only, with no popups, audio or motion permitted—on various pages. Google will receive the income from ads displayed on most of the pages, such as those that list search results, but income from ads that show up when a reader is
looking at a full page of text from a specific book will be split between Google and the rightsholders.
The fourth source of revenue is from printouts from public access viewings of books.
What all of these uses will mean for authors is renewed economic life for books that are otherwise unavailable or have limited availability. Authors will control whether their books are included in the database, as well as over what is shown under the preview function. The agreement will also benefit readers and scholars, who will have unprecedented access to millions of books.