e-Book Echo: Publication Rights Confuse Us All

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Our platform focus continues this fine Sunday with the e-Book Echo, our take on the week in the digital publishing world. I’ve weighed in before on the confusing area of international e-book publishing rights. It seems almost arbitrary which books can be purchased outside the U.S., as apparently each vendor needs an agreement for each country, author, and sometimes even individual books. How unclear this can be for artists was driven home this week in a comment left on jkOnTheRun by novelist David Hewson:

As an aside you might like to know that anyone buying the Kindle ‘International’ edition can’t buy my ebooks. That routes people through the US store and my US publisher doesn’t have US rights for some territories including the UK. So I am now getting complaining emails from UK Kindle owners saying ‘Why aren’t your books out as ebooks?’ Which they are – but for Sony in the UK from the UK publisher.

It is one almighty mess right now outside the US.

Confused yet? I know I am the more I hear about how this works (or fails to work). A conversation I had with Barnes & Noble last year addressed the mess from the e-book seller’s standpoint. They indicated they must often negotiate an agreement with each and every country in which they want to sell a given e-book. This must be done for each book they wish to sell, which is why you may notice that some books cannot be sold to consumers in a given country.

This situation is going to become more troublesome as the e-book industry grows, and it’s critical that the players get a handle on this. If an author wants his/her works sold as e-books, and their publisher does too, then it should be much simpler to sell them online without all of these lawyers involved. No disrespect to the legal profession, but when something relatively simple becomes so difficult due to legalities, it’s rarely a good thing for any involved parties.

Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

The Price of E-Book Progress

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