ENTRIES TAGGED "publishing WIR"

Publishing News: US Supreme Court dives into the Kirtsaeng “first sale” doctrine case

Justices hear first sale doctrine arguments, DRM frustrations reach the mainstream, what the Penguin-Random House merger means.

Here are a few stories from the publishing space that caught my attention this week.

Gavel.pngThe US Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments on Monday in Kirtsaeng d/b/a Bluechristine99 v. John Wiley & Sons Inc. This isn’t a sexy case, but it’s a very important one. The case, which I’ve covered here previously, involves textbooks that a student purchased in Thailand and resold in the US. David Kravets reports at Wired:

“The case tests the so-called ‘first sale’ doctrine, which generally allows the purchaser of copyrighted works to re-sell or use the work without the copyright holder’s permission. That’s why used bookstores, libraries, GameStop, video rental stores and even eBay are all legal. But how the doctrine applies to foreign-purchased works — the so-called gray market — has been a matter of considerable debate.”

Kravets provides a nice overview of the case, and notes that though it mainly deals with physical goods now, as digital goods (for various reasons) can’t be resold, court rulings will have far-reaching effects into the future when digital goods can be resold — waters companies like ReDigi are testing.

The immediate implications for physical goods resale are important to note. Joe Mullin at Ars Technica writes:

“Without ‘first sale’ doctrine in place, content companies would be allowed to control use of their goods forever. They could withhold permission for resale and possibly even library lending — or they could allow it, but only for an extra fee. It would have the wild effect of actually encouraging copyrighted goods to be manufactured offshore, since that would lead to much further-reaching powers.”

Washington, DC lawyer John Mitchell, who has defended students in cases similar to Kirtsaeng, wrote in an email to Mullin that the stakes in this case are high. Mitchell writes:

“There are millions of people living in poverty or near poverty in this country. They scarcely buy new shoes or new clothes, instead shopping at Goodwill Industries or other establishments catering to their needs. They buy used cars, used phones, and used computers. For the person who always buys new, for whom price is not a big factor, the next ‘point of distribution’ is probably the trash. (And, yes, there is case law supporting the right to take copies intended for the trash, clean them up, and resell them.) ‘First sale’ protects those downstream individuals who will never buy new and who would otherwise be left out.”

Mullin’s in-depth look at the case, the case history and what’s at stake is this week’s recommended read.

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Publishing News: Amazon gets a brick-and-mortar bookstore, sort of

Waterstones and Amazon team up, Google's battle with newspapers continues, and the Big Six to become the Big Five?

Here are a few stories from the publishing space that caught my attention this week.

U.K. bookstore teams up with Amazon

Charlotte Williams and Lisa Campbell report this week at The Bookseller that Waterstones bookstore in the U.K. launched its Amazon Kindle promotion, wherein customers can purchase a Kindle, Kindle Fire, Kindle Fire HD, or (by the end of the month) a Kindle Paperwhite in their brick-and-mortar stores. Williams and Campbell report that the point-of-sale slogan reads in part: “There are two sides to every story. With books and now Kindle you can enjoy both at Waterstones.”

In an interview with Leo Kelion at the BBC, Waterstones’ managing director James Daunt defends the move against critics who declare he’s signed the bookstore’s death warrant, saying he’s not a “moron” and indicating (without specifics) that the store is making money off the deal. Daunt also argues that you have to look at the bigger picture:

“All that we have to do is encourage people to come into our shops and to choose the books. I don’t frankly care how they then consume then, or read them, or indeed buy them. But if you spend time in my shops, and you really enjoy it, and you come back more often and spend longer, you’re going to spend money in my shops.”

Though Kelion calls the move “a twist no one saw coming,” someone did see this coming — a bookseller, in fact. In a Q&A following The Kepler’s 2020: Building the Community Bookstore of the 21st Century session at TOC 2012, Kepler’s 2020 project leader Praveen Madan said:

“[Ebooks are] something we want to provide; we want to be part of the overall experience. But the solution and the technology has to come from somebody else. I’m very serious about looking at [partnering with] Amazon and just giving away Kindles and telling people it’s okay — you have our permission. Walk into the bookstore, browse the books and download the books on your Kindle.”

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Publishing News: Two publications shift focus from print to digital

Newsweek ends print, The Guardian hires a digital strategy director, libraries own Random House ebooks, and Kindles go to school.

Here are a few stories from the publishing space that caught my attention this week.

Navigating the print to digital shift

After 79 years of print production, U.S. weekly news magazine Newsweek will be shutting down its printing presses and going all-in on digital by the end of the year. Darrell Etherington reports at TechCrunch that the final print edition will publish on December 31, 2012, and the digital edition of the magazine will be renamed Newsweek Global. Etherington quotes a memo from Newsweek editor Tina Brown explaining the thought process behind the move:

“Currently, 39 percent of Americans say they get their news from an online source, according to a Pew Research Center study released last month. In our judgment, we have reached a tipping point at which we can most efficiently and effectively reach our readers in all-digital format. This was not the case just two years ago. It will increasingly be the case in the years ahead.”

Jaar Newsweek-sm by Julian Stallabrass, on Flickr

There is much speculation as to whether or not this strategic move will succeed. Felix Salmon at Reuters argues in no uncertain terms that it’s not going to work:

“Once upon a time, Newsweek was a license to print money; from here on in, it will be a drain and a distraction. Merging it into the Daily Beast never made a huge amount of sense, and now it’s being de-merged: instead, its journalism ‘will be supported by paid subscription and will be available through e-readers for both tablet and the Web.’ … The chances that Newsweek will succeed as a digital-only subscription-based publication are exactly zero. If you had a team of first-rate technologists and start from scratch trying to create such a beast, you’d end up with something pretty much like Huffington — which lasted exactly five issues before bowing to the inevitable and going free. “

In somewhat related digital publishing news, there were rumors recently that The Guardian would be ending its print publication to fully embrace digital. These rumors were solidly squashed, but Guardian News & Media is making a move to put digital front and center: this week, the company appointed its first ever digital strategy director.

According to the press release, Zeit Online chief editor Wolfgang Blau will begin his new postion April 1, 2013, and “will work across GNM’s editorial and commercial teams, helping them to grow global audiences and revenues by developing new digital platforms that deepen reader engagement and provide new opportunities to commercial partners.” A spokesman from GNM told Robert Andrews at PaidContent, “We have never had a single person in charge of digital strategy. Given the scale of our digital audience (30.2 million monthly uniques, according to the last comScore), it’s clearly time.”

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Publishing News: Judge rules fair use in Authors Guild v. HathiTrust

Summary judgement in favor of HathiTrust, Arment's magazine experiment, and 10 steps to a publishing reformation.

Here are a few stories from the publishing space that caught my attention this week.

HathiTrust book scanning ruled fair use

Last week, Google reached a settlement agreement with McGraw-Hill, Pearson Education, Penguin, John Wiley & Sons, and Simon & Schuster over its book-scanning project. The Authors Guild was none too happy about the settlement, as it may not bode well for its pending lawsuit against Google. This week, as the Authors Guild called upon the DOJ to review whether or not the terms of the settlement, which were not disclosed, violate Federal antitrust law, the group suffered yet another setback: Judge Harold Baer ruled in favor of the HathiTrust Digital Library in Authors Guild v. HathiTrust, ruling that the libraries that gave books to Google to scan are protected under the principle of fair use.

Mathew Ingram at GigaOm argued this week that the authors are standing on the wrong side of the book-scanning issue. He points out that Judge Baer’s decision was a summary judgement, meaning that the judge felt the arguments for fair use were strong enough to make a trial unnecessary. Ars Technica’s Timothy B. Lee takes a nice look at the factors the court considers in fair use cases and which held the most weight in Judge Baer’s decision.

Law professor James Grimmelmann noted that this ruling together with last week’s settlement might be “a moment for a reevaluation of the Authors Guild’s suit against Google.” Ingram and Lee both point out that Google’s fair use argument might not be as strong as HathiTrust’s, but Lee stresses the nuance of the decision may be a positive sign for Google:

“The libraries’ fair use argument is somewhat stronger than Google’s because they are non-profit organizations with fundamentally educational missions. But significantly, Judge Baer did not rely heavily on this fact in siding with the libraries. Instead, he focused on the transformative nature of the libraries’ use. And since Google is making virtually the same use of its own scanned copies of the books, it’s a safe bet that there are some happy lawyers in Mountain View this evening.”

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Publishing News: Google and publishers settle lengthy legal battle

Google settles with publishers, publishers are getting back to actual business, news gets mobile, and Google wants to charge for content.

Here are a few stories from the publishing space that caught my attention this week.

Publishers and Google reach an agreement to disagree

Seven years of litigation came to a close this week as Google reached a settlement agreement with McGraw-Hill, Pearson Education, Penguin, John Wiley & Sons, and Simon & Schuster. Hayley Tsukayama at the Washington Post reports:

“Under the settlement, the publishers … will be able to choose whether or not to make work that Google has already scanned available for the project. If they choose to make the material available, Google will provide a digital copy for the publisher’s personal use. If they choose not to participate, Google will remove the material. Going forward, publishers can negotiate directly with Google to allow additional material to be included in the database.”

Claire Cain Miller at the New York Times notes that all questions regarding Google’s digitization project are not answered: Google has yet to come to an agreement with the Authors Guild about copyright infringement issues with its book-scanning project, and the issue of orphan works still remains unaddressed. The settlement, Miller writes, “essentially allows both sides to agree to disagree, and gives publishers the right to keep their books out of Google’s reach.”

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Publishing News: B&N improves its ecosystem

B&N Nook HD tablets launch, with Nook Video on deck; Bjarnason argues against web-based ebook formatting; and taxes won't save journalism.

Here are a few stories from the publishing space that caught my attention this week.

B&N pursues the “low-end tablet throne”

Barnes & Noble’s new HD tablet launch was the headline news this week. Reuters reports B&N introduced a 7-inch Nook HD tablet for $199 and a 9-inch Nook HD+ tablet for $269 — a price point B&N CEO William Lynch called a “wow price point.” Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps told Reuters the devices were a big improvement over earlier iterations and that they even “one-up Amazon in some areas.”

Laura Hazard Owen took an in-depth look at the tablets over at GigaOm and outlines a few of the improved areas. First, B&N is looking to improve discoverability with the new devices and bring the tablet shopping experience a bit closer to the in-store experience. Owen reports that readers can browse the store from inside ebooks to discover additional titles by that book’s author and similar titles in the genre. B&N also is launching Nook Channels to help readers discover books that are similar to other books they’ve liked. Owen reports the channels are curated collections of books with 40 to 50 titles — many of which are curated by B&N’s in-store booksellers. There also will be a new “Your Nook Today” button on the Nook home screens, which most notably will provide book recommendations based on the device’s content.

B&N also announced plans to launch a Nook-branded video store this fall, called Nook Video. Lauren Goode at All Things Digital has the need-to-know info on the service. Goode writes that it won’t be video subscription service, but will offer rentals and download purchases for streaming, and all content will be stored in the Nook Cloud. Goode also highlighted an interesting feature regarding owned physical DVDs:

“Nook Video will also create and store digital copies of the DVDs that you normally play on UltraViolet and Blu-ray players. So if you purchase a Blu-ray or UV DVD and sync your console with your Nook Video account, it will create a digital copy in your Nook Cloud. You could then, theoretically, watch it on another gadget, via the Nook app.”

Kind of like iTunes Match for DVDs. Joe Arico at Mobiledia argues that the Nook Video announcement takes the new Nook HD tablets to the next level and fills a crucial gap in the B&N ecosystem, making B&N “much more of a legitimate contender for the mid and low-end tablet throne.”

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Publishing News: Control over data is where the real war is being fought

The ebook price war is a "red herring," copyright needs the public's attention, and Wal-Mart (finally) breaks up with Amazon.

Here are a few stories that caught my attention this week in the publishing space.

Publishers, price is a distraction — focus on data control

Suw Charman-Anderson at Forbes took a look this week at Alison Flood’s report at The Guardian on the ebook price wars in the U.K., which are “prompting concerns from writers that the ‘relentless downward pressure on book prices’ could lead to industry ruin.” According to Flood’s report, authors and others in the industry are concerned that readers will get conditioned to these bargain basement prices, thus devaluing ebooks, and expect pricing at levels independent bookstores can’t afford to sustain.

Charman-Anderson argues that readers are smarter than that: “[t]he whole concept of sales, coupons, discounts and price wars is that the consumer gets something that’s worth more than the price paid, and they do so knowing full well that they’ve got a bargain. That’s what a bargain is.” She also argues that all these concerns over ebook price wars are a “red herring” diverting attention from the real problem. Referring to a post by Nick Harkaway at Futurebook, Charman-Anderson writes:

“Harkaway basically says that publishers need to become retailers in order to regain control over customer data, and he’s absolutely right. …. The value of customer data cannot be underestimated. Retail these days isn’t just about buying and selling; it’s about what additional value you can offer your customers based on the information you have about them.”

“The ebook price war is not the problem,” says Charman-Anderson. “The problem is that publishers have ceded the most valuable ground to the retailers.” Charman-Anderson’s piece is this week’s recommended read — you can find it here.

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Publishing News: DOJ settlement, the aftermath

A look at a looming Amazon monopoly and the DOJ settlement effect on ebook pricing. Also, a chat with The Atavist CEO Evan Ratliff.

Here are a few stories from the publishing space that caught my attention this week.

Digital evolution or government-assisted monopoly?

LA Times writers Dawn C. Chmielewski and Carolyn Kellogg took a look this week at Judge Cotes’ decision to approve the proposed settlement in the ebook price fixing case and the turmoil it’s causing in the publishing industry.

Chmielewski and Kellogg cite a statement by the Author’s Guild “warning that the ruling would turn the clock back to 2010, when Amazon sold 90% of all e-books,” but author and publishing attorney Jonathan Kirsch warned that the decision will have much bigger picture implications:

“By putting the legal approval on this settlement, the district court has pushed us over a certain kind of cliff. In terms of the real-life experiences of publishers, authors and readers, this will represent a fundamental change in how books are published and sold … The court says we recognize that we’re in the birth pangs of a revolution of book selling, but we’re not going to torture the antitrust law into permitting one way of doing business over another way of doing business.”

Literary agent Gary Morris told Chmielewski and Kellogg that Cotes’ decision basically handed Amazon a monopoly and that publishers’ biggest fear is “that by solidifying Amazon’s indispensability as a retailer, they’ll drop wholesale prices to a level that’s unsustainable for the publishing business.” On the other hand, Forrester analyst James McQuivey said for the piece that fighting the digital evolution is folly and that “[t]he companies in a position to focus on digital distribution — which is Amazon and Barnes & Noble — those are the companies positioned to take over.”

In a related piece, LA Times writer Michael Hiltzik dug into the background of the case and the history of Amazon’s position in the ebook market, and laid out how the antitrust suit plays into Amazon’s grand plans to build a monopoly. Hiltzik argues that in pursuing the antitrust suit, “the government walked blithely past the increasing threat of an Amazon monopoly and went after the stakeholders who were trying to keep it from taking root.” And he boils down the overall takeaway from the entire situation:

“[T]he most important concern that should be shared by all participants in the publishing world — readers, publishers, retailers, device manufacturers — is that it’s in no one’s interest to have a single company controlling 90% of the market. No one, that is, except the big player, which is Amazon.”

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Publishing News: Dusting off an old idea for the new digital age

Kindle Serials and data analytics, new Kindle lineup with forced advertisements, and a look at complementary digital publishing.

Here are a few stories from the publishing space that caught my attention this week.

Charles Dickens was on to something

In addition to showcasing the new Kindle lineup (see below), Jeff Bezos introduced Kindle Serials, a new subscription program for serialized books, at the Amazon event this week. Readers will be able to subscribe to books that will be released in “episodes,” with automatic content updates — think Charles Dickens in the age of the Internet. Sarah Kessler at Fast Company took a look at the program and argued that this format could have a profound effect on the way books are written in the digital era.

Kessler reports that each book will have its own discussion board, and “[u]nlike most book discussion boards, [reader discussions] may influence the outcome of the books.” (A recent study project by Latitude showed this to be one of the main demands from consumers in regard to how they want to experience storytelling in the digital age.) Writers, Kessler argues, will be able to put the serialized format to good use, as it will provide them with more data than they’ve ever had before:

“Publishing one segment at a time will enable authors, like app developers, to make decisions based on user activity. Data analytics will push that ability to another level. Do readers have high drop-off rates when a certain character appears? Maybe he should appear less in the next episode. Do they share a certain idea with their social networks? Maybe that idea comes up again.”

Kessler says the rise in book data analytics interest (noting companies like Hiptype) will undoubtedly affect the future of reading and writing experiences, “[b]ut what will change the books themselves are authors. And Amazon’s new serial format, combined with the rise of data analytics for everything, has potential to change their methods.”

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Publishing News: Are free Kindles on deck?

Rumors abound ahead of Amazon's press conference, publishers settle with states, and a strategy to survive the "End of Print."

Here are a few stories that caught my attention in the publishing space this week.

Is Amazon ready to give away the Kindle?

Amazon is scheduled to hold a press conference next week, and though, as Reuters reports, Amazon officials have not revealed what will be announced, there are no shortage of Kindle rumors flying about. Adding fuel to the rumor fire, Amazon announced this week that its supply of Kindle Fire devices has run dry.

Leslie Horn at Gizmodo pulled together a rumor roundup, including intel from a Staples executive that “Amazon was prepping ‘five or six’ new tablets,” that 4G might be in the picture, and that the new Fire devices might include a front-facing camera for video chats.

The Verge got its hands on a photo from an anonymous sender who claimed it to be a shot of the next Kindle Fire. The exact model isn’t clear, and one commenter claimed he’d held the new Fire and this was not it. Verge writer Chris Ziegler reports that the photo was confirmed as authentic “and is part of a larger set of images depicting a new Kindle device.”

One of the more interesting speculations has to do with device price. Most analysts and industry writers are conservatively speculating that the price points will remain close to the same as the previous Kindle line, with the (predicted) larger tablet costing a bit more. Farhad Manjoo at Slate has a more bold, insightful prediction on this point (one that I happen to lean toward):

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