New York Times Obituary for Herb Mitgang

Today’s obituary for Herbert Mitgang in The New York Times goes into much more detail than we did yesterday. For example, we wrote about Herb’s work for Stars and Stripes in World War II. The Times tells you he did much more than that during the war, serving as an Army intelligence officer, parachuting into Greece, and earning six battle stars.

The Times highlights Herb Mitgang’s 1988 book Dangerous Dossiers: Exposing the Secret War Against America’s Greatest Authors, which he wrote using FBI, CIA, and other files he obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

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Posted in General

Herbert Mitgang, Former Authors Guild and Authors League Fund President, Dies at 93

We’ve just learned that our dear friend Herbert Mitgang died this morning at the age of 93. Since joining the Authors Guild in 1957, Herb had been a stalwart supporter of the Guild and its organizations. He served as president of the Authors Guild and the Authors League Fund, devoting countless hours in the service of his fellow writers.

Herbert Mitgang began his distinguished writing career as an army correspondent for Stars and Stripes during World War II; he would soon become managing editor, first for the paper’s Oran-Casablanca edition, then for its Sicily edition.

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No SOPA: Speakers Downplay Legislation at House Online Piracy Hearing

At a House subcommittee hearing Tuesday to discuss online piracy, speakers emphasized education and voluntary cooperation over legislation, even as they acknowledged that voluntary efforts by search engines–a chief gateway to pirated works–had not been effective. John Eggerton of Broadcasting and Cable reports:

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Posted in Copyright, General

Not Just the French: Argentina and South Korea Debate Limiting Book Discount

While limits on book discounting in France and Germany receive much more attention, Publishing Perspectives took a recent look, in separate pieces, at how pricing and discounting is shaping the book market in two countries with vastly different reading and book buying cultures–Argentina and Korea.

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Posted in Authorship, General

New Era in China? Video Sites Sue Search Giant Baidu for Spreading Piracy

Can lawsuits slow piracy in China? We may soon find out.

Top Chinese video sites Youku Tudou, Sohu Video, Tencent Video license their content lawfully and sometimes create their own programs. Now, with the backing of the Motion Picture Association of America, they’ve filed suit against Baidu, China’s dominant search portal, and a smaller competitor for spreading links to unlicensed content. The suits seek about $50 million in damages, according to a story in The Hollywood Reporter.

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Posted in Copyright, General

House Committee to Tackle Fair Use and DMCA’s Takedown Rules

Congressional efforts to update U.S. copyright law are set to resume next Tuesday, when a House Judiciary subcommittee meets to discuss changing business models and content delivery methods in the digital age.

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Posted in Copyright, General

Round One to Google: Judge Chin Finds Mass Book Digitization a Fair Use. Guild Plans Appeal.

Judge Denny Chin today ruled that Google’s mass book digitization project to be a fair use, granting the company summary judgment in the copyright infringement lawsuit brought by the Authors Guild in 2005.

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Posted in General

The Big Chill: Authors Avoid Controversial Topics in Wake of NSA Revelations, PEN Survey Says

Fear of government intrusion is influencing how some American authors and journalists do their jobs, causing them to avoid researching, writing about and even privately discussing many of the most newsworthy topics, according to a report by the PEN American Center, Chilling Effects: NSA Surveillance Drives U.S. Writers to Self-Censor:

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Squeeze Play: 98 UK Publishers Go Broke in Past Year

Via Melville House, comes word that 98 UK publishers there have declared insolvency over the last year, a 42% increase compared with the previous year. Anthony Cork of Wilkins Kennedy, the accounting firm that issued the report, attributes much of this to the “massive buying power” of Amazon and other discount sellers, squeezing publishers’  profit margins.

Cork also said the increasing popularity of digital books — UK ebook sales soared 134% in 2012, according to the Publishers Association — creates opportunities for publishers, but also a new set of problems.

“However, the e-book market is now itself subject to fierce price competition and as with the music and film industries and the arrival of downloads, piracy is a serious threat.  Academic text books are amongst the most vulnerable to piracy as today’s students are simply accustomed to accessing the content they want on the Internet for free.”

Melville House notes that the pricing pressures on publishers and booksellers trace back to a major change in UK bookselling in 1995.

“Publishers in the UK were formerly protected by the Net Book Agreement, which was in effect from 1900 to 1995 and kept book prices static for all merchants. Books could only be discounted if they were second-hand or damaged, which led to many booksellers defacing books with markers or hole-punching the covers in order to offer reductions.”

UK bookstores have fared worse than publishers since then. Melville House points to a 2009 BBC report that 500 independent UK bookstores had gone out of business since price controls were dropped in 1995.

Posted in General

Desperate Times? Amazon Offers Indies Two-Year Ebook Revenue Share in Exchange for Customers

Amazon today unveiled a plan that lets indie booksellers turn their customers into Amazon customers.

Under the program, Amazon Source, independent booksellers buy Kindle devices at 6% below retail price for resale in their stores.  The stores then get a 10% cut of Kindle ebook sales to customers on those devices for the next two years.

Amazon explained it’s reasoning in a press release:

“We believe that retailers, online or offline, small or large, should be striving to offer customers what they want—and many customers want to read both digital and print books,” said Russ Grandinetti, Vice President, Amazon Kindle. “For many years, bookstores have successfully sold print books on Amazon—now Amazon Source extends this opportunity to digital. With Amazon Source, customers don’t have to choose between e-books and their favorite neighborhood bookstore—they can have both.”

Many independent booksellers are already selling ebooks, through an agreement made by the American Booksellers Associate and Kobo in the summer of 2012.

Selling Kindles in retail bookstores is not a new idea. In the UK, the Waterstones chain, which is restructuring in an attempt to stem losses at its 300 stores, is giving it a shot.

Amazon’s press release quotes enthusiastic booksellers involved in the Amazon Source pilot program.

“JJ Books is excited to expand our selection to now include Kindle devices for our customers. We are selling Kindle e-readers, tablets, and accessories in our store to expand our customer base and build toward the future bookstore model. We feel that Amazon is the leader for e-readers. Teaming up with Amazon to bridge the move to electronic books will help us find a means of long-term viability for our independent bookstore. Kindle will help us bridge the evolution of the bookstore into the Internet age,” said Jason Bailey, Co-Owner of JJ Books, Bothell, WA.

Bill Petrocelli, co-owner of Book Passage in Corte Madera, CA., has a different take:

“There’s a huge problem for any bookstore that might be tempted to do this: the store would be handing over to all of the information about its customer database,” Petrocelli said. “It reminds me of the situation that happened about a decade ago when Borders contracted with Amazon to handle its on-line business. Amazon ended up with the customers, and Borders went bankrupt.”

Posted in E-Books, General