A press release from Entrex, a business service that connects small private business with institutional investment sources, indicates that a share of Better World Books is part of the portfolio of a new socially responsible mutual fund.
Better World Books is one of the larger American used book wholesalers, and the only successful social venture I’ve come across in the North American online used book space. They receive books via donations from partner nonprofit groups, resell them on a wide variety of online marketplaces via Indaba, and donate the profits back to the partner nonprofits. Titles that are unprofitable to sell online are typically donated to underserved communities.
I first heard about Better World a year or two back, via Room to Read, a partner organization that organizes campus book drives; a friend of mine was looking into doing a drive on the nearby UC Berkeley campus.
Some booksellers have very legitimate concerns about not-for-profit booksellers (e.g. Better World in the US, or Oxfam bookstores in the UK) who don’t have to pay for inventory, and can underprice booksellers who do. I understand the concern, but it’s not clear to me that the impact is significant, particularly compared to momentous shifts like the rise of person-to-person online marketplaces.
[Now Reading: The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture by John Battelle]
Last spring, the US Copyright Office asked the public for comments about their experience with copyrighted orphan works (*), and suggestions on solutions to the problem. BookFinder.com made a submission, as did hundreds of others.
After several months. the US Copyright Office has released their final 133-page report based on their study. They suggest changing copyright law so that that users of orphaned works who do reasonably diligent searches and attribute the use of works will enjoy the following protections:
the user will have to pay only “reasonable compensation” if the owner resurfaces and objects to the use
non-commercial users won’t have to pay a fine if the owner resurfaces and objects to the use, as long as use of the work is stopped immediately
if the orphaned work has been used as part of a larger work containing significant expression, then the entire larger work can’t be shut down as long as the user pays reasonable compensation
We’ll continue to track the issue, to see if the recommendations are taken up…
* Orphan works are copyrighted materials whose owners are difficult or impossible to locate, meaning they can no longer be purchased, reprinted, cited at length, or otherwise built upon. Books can get “orphaned” for all sorts of reasons. Publishers shut down. Authors move, change their names, or pass away. Under U.S. copyright law, academics, artists, researchers, and plain-old-readers have no recourse if the copyright holder can’t be contacted.
While catching up with booksellers’ opinions on Abebooks policies (e.g. Jest, Colonel Colonel), I ran across Abebooks.de’s “Buchexperten-Netzwerk” (book expert network). It turns out that Abebooks’ German operation has been building up a network of bookstore partners, offering walk-in customers free appraisals and the chance to order Abebooks titles without having Internet access (i.e. taking the e- out of e-commerce).
A good number of North American click-and-mortar bookstores did the same thing, back before Internet/ecommerce access was common. This reminds me a bit of the new wave of eBay stores, except that you have the online marketplace actively promoting the offline sellers. Is this interesting? Does anyone familiar with the German-speaking book market have any predictions about how effective this might be?
[Now Reading: Cosmos Latinos: An Anthology of Science Fiction from Latin America and Spain edited by Andrea L. Bell and Yolanda Molina-Gaviln]
I just finished reading Vikram Seth’s double-biography Two Lives, about the lives of his Indian uncle and Jewish German aunt. Published by forward-thinking HarperCollins, the book’s copyright page lists both the ISBN-10 and ISBN-13:
ISBN-10: 0-06-59966-9 ISBN-13: 978-0-06-59966-9
Unfortunately, the ISBN-10 is only nine digits long, and the ISBN-13 is twelve. No, it’s not the checksum that’s missing, but the leading “0” in the item number. Thankfully, the ISBN listed on the book jacket has it right:
ISBN-13: 978-0-06-059966-9 ISBN-10: 0-06-059966-9
The ISBN-13 transition will undoubtedly be full of small errors like this, confirming the natural skepticism of used and rare booksellers toward software and systems that lock users into the ISBN system.