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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Posted in General

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

What are you doing Nov. 30? Bookstores Seeking More Authors for “Indies First” Day

While about 400 authors have answered Sherman Alexie’s call to “become a superhero for independent bookstores”–including some who plan to spend Nov. 30 hand-selling at multiple locations–many booksellers who’d like to be part of the Indies First movement are still looking for authors.

Authors who haven’t joined in yet can call their favorite local bookseller and volunteer their services on Nov. 30, which is also Small Business Saturday and the kick-off to the ABA’s “Thanks for Shopping Indie” campaign.

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Posted in General

Black and White and Read All Over? B&N Rolls Out New Nook for the Holidays

Barnes & Noble today released its new $119 Nook black-and-white e-reader to positive reviews, but also to skepticism about the device’s ability to challenge the Kindle Paperwhite, given Amazon’s dominance of the ebook market and B&N’s own problems developing a solid digital business.

James McQuivey, an analyst at Forrester Research, told the New York Times that the new Nook was “spectacular,” but added:

“If you were just engineering a device that you wanted people to fall in love with, then yes, it’s a great device. But the bigger problem is, will people perceive that Barnes & Noble as a company will be around to fulfill the promises that that device makes? It’s a shadow that hangs over the entire Nook enterprise right now.”

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Posted in E-Books, General

Should it Stay (in New York) or Should it Go (to Boston, maybe)? Voting for the Future of BEA

Do you miss the days when BookExpo America changed cities from year to year? Or are you glad it finally settled in at New York’s Javits Center and dread the thought of it returning to its nomadic ways?

Now you can go to BEA’s website and vote on whether the show, which is set to move to Chicago for 2016, stays permanently in the Big Apple after it returns. Your choices:

Yes, NYC makes BEA more compelling and delivers more value.

NYC is important, but it should be every other or every 3rd year.

NO, NYC is too expensive and difficult.

NO, BEA would perform better by traveling to new cities every year.

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Posted in General

Larry Kirshbaum to Leave Amazon Publishing in Early 2014

[Updated to include Amazon's confirmation of story to Publishers Weekly.]

Two and a half years after recruiting a high-profile industry veteran and launching a general trade book publishing operation, Amazon is dramatically scaling back its publishing ambitions,  Shelf Awareness reports:

“Shelf Awareness has learned that Larry Kirshbaum, editorial head of the company’s New York and Seattle adult imprints and children’s publishing, is leaving the company early next year and returning to agenting. In connection with his departure, the most ambitious part of Amazon’s publishing operations will be scaled back. Already several editorial people have left or been let go, and Amazon has not

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Posted in General

Scott Turow on CBS This Morning: Authors Face a “Many Faceted Battle”

When Scott Turow stopped by CBS This Morning last week to promote his new book, Identical, co-anchor Charlie Rose turned the discussion to Turow’s “beef with Amazon,” while Norah O’Donnell brought up his April New York Times piece on  “The Slow Death of the American Author.”

Turow said Amazon’s below-cost ebook pricing, “destroys physical bookstores and drives the reading public into the ebook, which of course Amazon dominates. They’re a great competitor and I don’t mind fair operation of the market. I don’t like unfair tactics.”

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Posted in Advocacy, Copyright, E-Books, General, Royalties