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April 11 2012

Never, ever "out of print"

I recently sat down with transactional and intellectual property attorney Dana Newman (@DanaNewman) to talk about today's rights concerns for authors and how publishing models need to change to accommodate digital. We also discussed how books can no longer go out of "print" and how that could — and should — affect rights and contracts:

"Under older, more traditional contracts, the rights would revert when [a book] went out of print, meaning it was no longer being distributed in print form. Now, with print on demand and ebooks, it's becoming irrelevant. I think what we need to do is create a new structure for those rights to revert back to the author — that could be based on some sort of minimum sales threshold and that the book is no longer available through the major online retail channels. That would make more sense. On the other side for the publisher, they could think about setting a term where once the advance is earned out, then perhaps at that point they would revert the rights back to the author." (Discussed at 4:33.)

Newman also talked about the need for flexibility, shorter license terms and rights of first refusal in creating a new publishing model that is more equitable for both authors and publishers. (Discussed at 2:13.)

You can view the entire interview in the following video:

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March 05 2012

Unglue.it seeks to set ebooks free

This post is part of the TOC podcast series. You can also subscribe to the free TOC podcast through iTunes.


Gluejar president Eric Hellman (@gluejar) likes to ask people the question, "Have you ever given anybody a book?" Everyone's answer to that is "yes," and Gluejar's platform, Unglue.it, is an interesting model that sets ebooks free. Notice I didn't say the books themselves are free. Similar to the Kickstarter model, there's a minimum payment that must be made to the rights holder, but once that threshold is achieved, the ebook becomes freely distributable. This opens the door to all sorts of potential sponsorship deals as well as ways to give more visibility to slow-moving backlist titles.

Key points from the full video interview (below) include:

  • It's not just for backlist — But the backlist is a logical starting point, especially those titles that may have already reached a sufficient revenue or profit level for the rights holder. And let's not forget that some "long tail" titles are generating little to no sales at all. [Discussed at the 3:32 mark.]
  • What's the licensing model for readers? — Unglue.it uses the Creative Commons license to give the reader the right to do a number of things with the econtent based on what options the rights holder selects. [Discussed at 4:15.]
  • Publishers have shown both interest and skepticism — Several projects are already underway despite the fact that many rights holders are content to let others be the guinea pigs with this platform. [Discussed at 6:40.]
  • Unglue.it could be a terrific solution for libraries — The economic model could be ideal for the library market as they navigate the transition from scarcity to a world of abundance. [Discussed at 7:26.]

You can view the entire interview in the following video.

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