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Boldly going

This morning we opened the doors to more than 500 delegates attending the FutureBook Conference 2011, our annual event looking at and ­discussing the digital book business.

This year’s conference is the biggest yet. In fact, aside from May’s Bookseller Industry Awards, it is the biggest single event we have ever staged—35% bigger than last year’s conference. The numbers, and the growth in those figures, show that the book business is meeting the challenges set by the digital transition head-on. It is a point worth underlining: in the past 12 months publishers’ digital sales have gone from first to fifth gear, and although there may have been bumps and scrapes along the way, the car has not been driven off the road.

However, this may not always hold true. When Penguin chief executive John Makinson warns that he sees “dark clouds” on the horizon, we should all take note. The key findings of our own Digital Census show publishers have become increasingly bullish, but remain wary over whether digital growth will translate into profits—and over the growing dominance of digital giants such as Amazon, Google and Apple.

For publishers, the nightmare scenario is that a strong digital market is achieved at the expense of the physical market, resulting in flat sales and lower profits—hardly a business strategy one could sell to staff, authors, or even investors. There is a sunny upland of a ­thriving digital book market, but to reach it publishers need to successfully cross a gloomy valley of stagnant print sales.

There is still time for those holding the copyrights to dictate terms. Publishers need to think innovatively about how they can sustain the physical showrooms of the book shop, while looking at the opportunities digital throws up: international, apps, start-ups, e-book lending, consumer data. FutureBook will be a timely opportunity to catch our breath, and talk about how far we’ve come and what we’ve learned on the journey.

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Excellent story.

As an author's advocate, I present some more food for thought. Now that books can sit on a server or be printed on demand what is the motivation for a publisher to return rights to an author? Where does the copyright holder stand when a book is out of print?

Authors make a living by selling books. If a handful of books are sitting in a ware house and a publisher is not selling copies then the rights should be returned to the author. That is how it has been handled in the past.

Recently, a case in point is Harper/Collins U.K. refusal to return rights to author's for their books where Harper/Collins are not doing anything at all to keep the books in the stores and therefore are not selling any copies other than warehousing books. The works are out of print.

So in order to keep the books in print, Harper/Collins, wants to bring out ebooks to avoid the book going out of print only they won't pay a 50/50 royalty to the author on old titles. The agreements calls for the parties to agree on a royalty. Now in order to leverage the author Harper/Collins won't return rights and won't publish an ebook because they won't pay the author a fair ebook royalty on an old title(s). Random House is paying higher royalties than Harper/Collins for back list ebook titles.

In the digital age authors have to be very careful concerning how "out of print" language is designed. If the parties cannot come to terms on a digital royalty an author should have their book(s) back. This example is when a publisher wishes to publish an ebook and royalties have to be negotiated per the agreement, which is the case with Harper/Collins, and where this language exists in older contracts. In new agreements, future language in publishing contracts needs to state that the author is free to go if the parties can't agree on an ebook royalty (if one is not agreed to at the time of the original deal). Otherwise, like Harper/Collins, publishers will employ tactics simply to hold on to rights.

With all the publishers Trident has worked with in the U.K., Harper/Collins is the first to employ this tactic to hold on to rights of an out of print work(s).

Robert Gottlieb
Chairman
Trident Media Group, LLC
www.tridentmediagroup.com

Excellent story.

As an author's advocate, I present some more food for thought. Now that books can sit on a server or be printed on demand what is the motivation for a publisher to return rights to an author? Where does the copyright holder stand when a book is out of print?

Authors make a living by selling books. If a handful of books are sitting in a ware house and a publisher is not selling copies then the rights should be returned to the author. That is how it has been handled in the past.

Recently, a case in point is Harper/Collins U.K. refusal to return rights to author's for their books where Harper/Collins are not doing anything at all to keep the books in the stores and therefore are not selling any copies other than warehousing books. The works are out of print.

So in order to keep the books in print, Harper/Collins, wants to bring out ebooks to avoid the book going out of print only they won't pay a 50/50 royalty to the author on old titles. The agreements calls for the parties to agree on a royalty. Now in order to leverage the author Harper/Collins won't return rights and won't publish an ebook because they won't pay the author a fair ebook royalty on an old title(s). Random House is paying higher royalties than Harper/Collins for back list ebook titles.

In the digital age authors have to be very careful concerning how "out of print" language is designed. If the parties cannot come to terms on a digital royalty an author should have their book(s) back. This example is when a publisher wishes to publish an ebook and royalties have to be negotiated per the agreement, which is the case with Harper/Collins, and where this language exists in older contracts. In new agreements, future language in publishing contracts needs to state that the author is free to go if the parties can't agree on an ebook royalty (if one is not agreed to at the time of the original deal). Otherwise, like Harper/Collins, publishers will employ tactics simply to hold on to rights.

With all the publishers Trident has worked with in the U.K., Harper/Collins is the first to employ this tactic to hold on to rights of an out of print work(s).

Robert Gottlieb
Chairman
Trident Media Group, LLC
www.tridentmediagroup.com