[Update, February 2, 2012: There have been some comments here and elsewhere questioning the accuracy of a sentence in this blog post that we excerpted from Barry Lynn's "Killing the Competition" Harper's piece. The sentence deals with Amazon's blackout of Macmillan titles in 2010. We found Mr. Lynn's sentence, saying that "Amazon wanted to price ... every e-book of every publisher at $9.99 or less" to be accurate. To our knowledge, that's precisely what Amazon was trying to do. In our post about the buy-button blackout at the time (The Right Battle at the Right Time, two years ago today), we described a "$9.99 ceiling that Amazon has been seeking to impose on the industry." It's true that Amazon did selectively sell some e-books from major publishers at $10 or more, but Amazon's intentions and practices -- in October 2009, for example, Amazon priced a reported 104 of 112 NY Times bestsellers at $9.99 -- seem quite clear.]
Subtlety is out. Bloomberg Businessweek’s January 25th cover shows a book engulfed in flames. The book’s title? “Amazon Wants to Burn the Book Business.” A towering pile of books dominates the front page of Sunday’s NYT Business Section. The pile starts well below the fold (print edition), breaks through the section header at the top of the page, and leans precariously. Books are starting to tumble off. “The Bookstore’s Last Stand,” reads the headline.
World Book Night, a British experiment in giving away royalty-free new books to strangers, is coming to the US, and we’re on board. Here’s the background.
On every first Thursday in March since 1998, the UK has celebrated World Book Day by giving several million British schoolchildren £1 tokens they can use to purchase any book at a bookseller. UK publishers produce special £1 World Book Day editions of select books, and booksellers, schools, and libraries host hundreds of author visits, story times, and dress parties to celebrate the day. By all accounts, World Book Day has become quite successful in bringing books to children and families to bookstores.
At a very brief status conference this afternoon regarding our copyright infringement lawsuit against Google, the parties asked Judge Denny Chin for additional time to explore settlement possibilities. Judge Chin noted that the issues are complex and set the next status conference for July 19th.
“It’s been a long road,” said Authors Guild executive director Paul Aiken. “We’re giving settlement discussions a fair shot before pressing ahead with our litigation.”
On March 22nd, Judge Chin rejected a proposed settlement, saying that “many of the concerns raised in the objections would be ameliorated if the ASA [the Amended Settlement Agreement] were converted from an ‘opt-out’ settlement to an ‘opt-in’ settlement. I urge the parties to consider revising the ASA accordingly.” (Judge Chin’s March 22nd opinion is available here.)
We’ll keep you posted on further developments.
Random House, the largest trade book publisher in the U.S., announced last week that it is adopting the agency model for selling e-books. For readers and authors concerned about a diverse literary marketplace, this is welcome news, a chance for online bookselling to avoid the winner-take-all trap. Random House’s move gives brick-and-mortar bookstores, many of which are now selling e-books but cannot afford to lose money on those sales, a fighting chance in the new print + digital landscape.
“Book retailers have faced extraordinary challenges in recent years,” said Authors Guild President Scott Turow, “a double whammy of recession and a shift to digital books that had cut many stores out. For anyone who loves bookstores, this is the best news out of the publishing industry in a long time. Random House’s move may prove to be a lifeline for some bookstores.”
At the request of authors, publishers and Google, the court has extended the deadline to file for an upfront payment in the Google Book Settlement. Any author or publisher claiming an upfront payment — a “Cash Payment” — will now have until one year after the Court’s final approval of the settlement to file.
Authors whose works were scanned by Google on or before May 5, 2009 may be entitled to claim a Cash Payment. If you are not claiming a Cash Payment, you may file at any time.
The deadline to remove your work from all databases (we don’t recommend this, since it may be irrevocable — you’ll have more flexibility by simply blocking displays) is still April 5, 2011.
Find out whether your work was scanned, and read the filing instructions here: Google Book Search Claims
Final approval of the Google Book Settlement is still pending.
For those of you who may have missed it, on Tuesday The New York Times published an op-ed on copyright policy by Scott Turow, Paul Aiken, and James Shapiro. Scott Turow testified yesterday before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, “Targeting Websites Dedicated to Stealing American Intellectual Property.” We’ll post his written testimony soon.
The opening to the op-ed follows.