As Technology Advances, Give Authors a Say in Subscription eBookson August 1, 2014 at 3:48 pm
The world of eBooks – and those who write them – is often overshadowed when it comes to the copyright conversation. Movies and music consume most of the discussion around protecting creators, but authors of course deserve our time and attention for the wealth of entertainment they bring to readers around the world (And let’s not forget, many movies start out as novels!)
That said, a company that regularly fires up media interest is bringing the spotlight back to eBooks this week, as a judge scrutinizes the fairness of Apple’s settlement over price-fixing with major publishers. The legal back and forth of the appeals process is one element of the story, but the deeper dive focuses on how large a proportion of the end compensation will go to lawyers and states, rather than consumers and creators.
In short, even when the major names in tech are caught with their hands in the cookie jar, very little of their excessive gains make their way back to those who were taken advantage of.
Even as courts and tech companies wrangle over the appropriate price for downloaded books, the industry is pushing forward on other fronts that will shape the industry.
All-you-can-eat subscription models are common in the movie and music business – think Netflix or Spotify and work your way down from there – but have been slow to take hold in the world of publishing.
That could be about to change, as startup Oyster gains media attention and Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited service takes shape to offer subscription eBooks. Inevitably, competing services are expected to spring up in their wake, and publishers will face a similar paradigm shift to the ones being handled by record labels and movie studios.
As we move into this new era of digital book consumption it will be vital for distributors, service providers, and even lawmakers to hear the voice of authors. An opportunity exists to both improve the reading experience for consumers and, at the same time, ensure that the writers they enjoy are involved in defining how their work can be used and what level of compensation they receive for it. This may take the form of non-monetary benefits, such as promotion of future works, connections to other entertainment companies, or exclusive arrangement with specific services to raise the value for prominent authors.
However the new model of selling the written word unfolds, the chance to finally involve creators in the business that sells their work is one that must not be missed. The Autho’s Guild asked for time and a voice in the debate over Google’s mass digitization of books recently, and a similar push should be made as consumers are attracted to these new services.
For once it would be exciting to see creators driving their own corner of the industry, rather than being swept up in the wash of whatever the next technology tidal wave brings to their shores.