Agents and publishers grapple over 'enhanced' e-book rights

<p>Enhanced e-books, which offer multi&shy;media content such as video, are emerging as a new right in the marketplace, with publishers and agents tussling over who should own them.</p><p>The increasing popularity of the Apple iPhone and imminent arrival of the iPad has led to a surge in interest in enhanced e-books. A Mobclix survey revealed this week that there were more books than games available for download as applications for the iPhone.</p><p>Some publishers, such as Canongate, negotiate their enhanced e-books on a case-by-case basis with agents. However, others take a more broad-brush approach, with a Hachette spokesperson stating &quot;we aim to get all digital rights&quot;.</p><p>Some publishers are understood to favour a broad definition of electronic rights, which would fold &quot;enhanced&quot; e-books in with the verbatim text e-book right, often granted to publishers as a matter of course. However, agents are keen to mark out a distinction between text e-books and others with additional multimedia elements.</p><p>Tom Williams of Peters, Fraser &amp; Dunlop said: &quot;We think that for publishers to do e-books is a very good thing since if they&#39;re not available it encourages piracy. Enhanced e-books are a different proposition and we see them as a separate right.&quot; Eugenie Furniss of William Morris Endeavor Entertainment also said the agency negotiated e-book and enhanced e-book rights separately.</p><p>Jim Gill of United Agents said the enhanced e-book &quot;seems to us an all-encompassing category that some publishers are seeking to throw a rope around at the moment, potentially covering anything from incidental music with an e-book edition or author interviews, right out to highly designed and produced iPhone applications.&quot;</p><p>He said while some basic enhancements might be covered by an existing grant of e-book rights, &quot;beyond that we&#39;re talking about very sophisticated products which don&#39;t resemble at all what we&#39;d all understand to be &lsquo;a book&#39; licensed under a volume-rights agreement&quot;. Gill added United Agents would &quot;no sooner naturally sell those rights to a book publisher than we&#39;d sell them film rights.&quot; </p><p>The need for all parties to define terms has also becoming a pressing issue. Penguin is understood to be particularly proactive in approaching literary agents to clarify its boilerplate language on digital rights via contracts director Louise Hughes.&shy; Michael Bhaskar, digital publishing manager of Profile Books, said wording was difficult in what was still a very new area. &quot;In all contracts it&#39;s becoming a more difficult question. It&#39;s positive, because it means a greater level of awareness that we have to get this right,&quot; he said. </p>