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February 26, 2009

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Paula B.

Anirvan,

The problem is that what can be done with a book vs. how much authors get paid for those uses is inconsistent. Part of that is logistical, part is tradition. In the U.S., it's been impossible to track sales of used books; it's also been impossible for libraries to compensate authors each time a book is checked out (wherever would they get the funds for that?), so neither of these things is done. But technically, each time one of those things happens, an author is losing out on potential revenue. The reason authors accept that state of affairs is because we're used to it and expect nothing else.

I am not arguing against your position on the Kindle audio situation. What I am saying is that if Amazon is allowed to seize a right they have not been granted, what's to stop others from doing the same in more egregious ways? Google boldly violated authors' and publishers' copyrights. (Yes, that's been settled, but that's not my point.) There has to be some respect for authors, who after all, provide the product without which publishers and booksellers wouldn't be able to stay in business. This truth seems to be rarely acknowledged, so let me repeat it: without authors, publishers and booksellers ain't got nothing! So how about a little respect for those of us who enable these companies to make a living?

Paula B.

Addendum:

By the way, when I said "How about a little respect?" I didn't mean *you.* I meant publishers and booksellers (and Google, etc.). Hope you didn't take that the wrong way. I think you're terrific!

Wayne Somers

An author's contract with a publisher specifies the sale by the author to the publisher of the right to produce an e-book, and the sale by the author to the publisher of the right to produce an audio book. The contract concerns only the sale to a publisher of certain specified assets belonging to the author; it does not, of course, have to do with magnifiers or anything else a book store may decide to sell. The Authors' Guild quite properly insists that if the publishers suddenly want e-book rights to include audio book rights, they can't just grab that asset; they must negotiate a contractual change. The rights of authors, especially in America, aren't going to be protected by readers or publishers - the idea is laughable - but rather by contracts, lawyers and unions - in this case, the Authors' Guild. If I were a writer, I'd join them in a flash.

Ricardo Reis

I wonder if every time someone reads to their sons aloud, before they going to be, they are infringing the "copyright" of authors? Maybe if I hummm a tune I am stepping on someone toes? If the this "someone" had an speech impediment of kind and needs an artificial limb to read? Is the use of this an infringement on copyright? Copyright is a balance. A balance between the private and the public. It is conceded by the public (through law and government) because it is perceived that private rights are a good way to promote public good. And don't be mistaken. They are indeed conceded by the public, the masses, because, in last case, they have the force. It's this balance that must be taken in consideration. And this action of the Authors Guild seems a blunt going against this balance. From your words (the people who commented) it seems they could extract a penny for every time something was read they would do it. Fortunately the public won't take it, it would be unbearable. The public perception is also interesting. And it says authors are greedy and hateful. What a sad story... I wonder, I wonder, if those same authors would pay for everything they take from the commons would they find their lives still bearable. well, sorry for the long rant, sometimes we just have to get it out.

prying1

As a member of the public I want it to be known I, for one, do not think authors are greedy and hateful.

I've a bro in law who is legally blind. Went blind through Diabetes. He used to love to read and I'm sure he, for one, would benefit from a reading Kindle.

That said I think the authors are right. As I read through the article my thoughts coalesced into the same statement Wayne Somers made in his comment, "The Authors' Guild quite properly insists that if the publishers suddenly want e-book rights to include audio book rights, they can't just grab that asset; they must negotiate a contractual change."

Thanks Wayne. All I had to do was cut and paste it instead of typing it out. And you said it so succinctly.

Ricardo Reis

Then, I ask, what is an audio book? Because we are stepping in a thin line here, where you blur technology and "what is". What's the difference between having someone read it to you (someone buys the book and reads it to you) and someone buying a kindle and have the kindle reading it to you (besides one being a machine, without intonation and knowledge of twisting the words to make them live) ? It's a prosthetic, this kindle feature, that's it. But that's even beside the point. Be coeherent. If you want to tax this kindle feature you have to tax everyone who reads aloud to someone else. Period.

Abunderment

The Authors guild is acting logically: it wants to maximise total revenue to all authors. This necessarily means that a few authors will receive an increasing share of the pie, and most authors will continue to earn (basically) nothing. Of course, salaries at Guild HQ will go up, as you can bet they correlate with fees collected.

Presumably, that portion of continuing-to-earn-nothing authors will get the satisfaction of knowing that they showed Amazon! Maybe Dan Brown or Oprah will include a general thanks in their xmas prayers.

America loves her monopoly rents. Has there ever been a culture so determined to find ways for citizens to tax other citizens? In so many legal entities? Such bizarre and peculiar instruments?

All the while, pretending this is "freedom", and that resulting inefficiencies and misallocations are "justice". No wonder the US is the world's largest consumer of haemorrhoid cream. Guess this the "happiness" bit.

Sanctimonious comments using disabled relatives for cred should be scorned. Just because the middle class can afford to pay more for books does not mean everyone can. Inevitably, as marginal cost increases, marginal price increases and demand falls. A fall in demand is actually PEOPLE who would have bought no longer buying. People matter.

Less greed is good. Set an example. pray others follow.

Paula B.

"Less greed is good."

I agree. Now, tell that to Amazon and Google.

Most of us authors are making less than minimum wage for our efforts (even though Mr. Reis seems to think we're so greedy). It's not about dinging someone every time they read a book aloud. It's not even about charging more for books. It's about recognizing the efforts and contributions of creators.

Frankly I'm sick of giving my work away for virtually nothing. I wish I'd kept my job in IT 20 years ago rather than trying to do something fulfilling. Had I known what it would be like, I would never have left. Now I might be facing a very bleak old age. And you want me to give up even more of my author's rights?

prying1

Abunderment said, "Has there ever been a culture so determined to find ways for citizens to tax other citizens?"

Dictionary dot com defines taxing: "A contribution for the support of a government required of persons, groups, or businesses within the domain of that government." (amongst other definitions)

Taxing in the sense you used it is what a government and not a private enterprise does. Private enterprise finds and fills a need or want and fills that void for sustenance.

I reread my previous comment and fail to see how I was being 'sanctimonious'. It was a statement of fact that other families may also share. Those visually handicapped WILL benefit from a talking Kindle. And there are programs and charities that will help alleviate the costs to visually handicapped because there are people that care. There are also people that care if authors have food on their tables too. Be careful of throwing words and judgment around. It can work both ways.

Should the entire cost be placed on the shoulders of the authors? I think not. Apparently others do.

Just because some people want authors to give their intellectual rights away so they can keep a few cents in their pocket does not necessarily make those people 'greedy' as they accuse authors and the Authors' Guild of being. It just makes them wrong. It is just plain silly to compare reading a book out loud to a child with a digital or analog recording being sold over the counter.

Back to Wayne Somers' comment, "The Authors' Guild quite properly insists that if the publishers suddenly want e-book rights to include audio book rights, they can't just grab that asset; they must negotiate a contractual change."

Amen Wayne! (Hang in there Paula. Great website you have!)

Ricardo Reis

Paula, I don't think "authors" are greedy. I think some authors are, generally copyright associations are and what I did say was that this protest will engage most of public perception in that direction.

" It is just plain silly to compare reading a book out loud to a child with a digital or analog recording being sold over the counter. "

The kindle is not a digital recorder. The software will never be a proper audio book because audio books need a proper voice. If you think it is an audio book try to get a job doing voice. You will know the difference. The voice market, for film, radio, ads and audio is not for everyone. For some reason. You need to be able to read properly, to convey it properly and in a way people will like to ear it.

Kindle is just a tool. If you feel like that I can tell you in 1996 I had already software on my PC who would read text stuff to me (it come for free with my soundcard). What would you call it? Audio book? Would my text files be auto-magically promote to audio books in this computer? Don't think so. That is the question.

I can understand the struggle authors have for being paid. I can see it better when collecting agencies keep the best piece of the pie for them. There are too many middle men in this whole affair. I don't think you should give your stuff for free (although some people do it but it is their choice). What I think is you cannot get paid for every time I read a book from you, for every time I ear a song. What I perceive is we all going to a state of affairs I have to pay copyright for humming tunes in the street. That's what I see.

prying1

Once again... Back to Wayne Somers' comment, "The Authors' Guild quite properly insists that if the publishers suddenly want e-book rights to include audio book rights, they can't just grab that asset; they must negotiate a contractual change."

Because one doesn't like the audio qualities of the Kindle does not mean that it is not playing a digital audio recording. Please notice I did not say a 'recorder' but 'recording'. There is a difference. If someone takes an eBook (Whether freeware or not) and uses text to speech software on it for their personal use that is one thing. For them to market the audio files on eBay or for a corporation to do so and sell it over the counter that is another.

Is having a corporation negotiate a contractual change really going to lead mankind down the slippery slope where humming a tune without advance payment will be punished? I hardly think so. Throw away the foil hat.

Ricardo Reis

prying1, I assumed kindle works with text to speech software. Maybe I was wrong. And then, it seems to me I am not (but if I am please correct me). A quick search ended in this link, from boingboing:

http://boingboing.net/2009/02/25/authors-guild-vs-rea.html

"In yesterday's New York Times, Author's Guild president Roy Blount Jr. rails against the Kindle's text-to-speech feature, opining that it infringes copyright because it provides a "derivative work" by creating audio editions of your textfiles. Blount says that eventually, text-to-speech will be so darned perfect, the audiobook market will be destroyed by it, so he aims to do something about it right now. "

This is not about recordings, is about text to speech. I stay in awe by such a prediction. When text to speech is so perfect I reckon why pay actors to do sound work...

Ricardo Reis

"Is having a corporation negotiate a contractual change really going to lead mankind down the slippery slope where humming a tune without advance payment will be punished? I hardly think so. Throw away the foil hat."

It is not this that will cause such. This I perceive as a symptom of such state of affairs. That was what I wanted to say.

Ricardo Reis

I must I've read by now all the comments on boing boing and my position is not so sure has before. Arguments are:

- quality is irrelevant;
- with a text2speech the text file can be regarded has an audiofile;

I also didn't knew that hardcover and softcover books are generally worked under diferent contracts. from this point of view I can see the AG from another perspective although I think they are using the wrong arguments. Anyway, I'm still thinking on this.

prying1

OK Ricardo! WE BOTH find reason to vacilate.

Here is a point from the antiAuthors Guild/ProAmazon that makes me think twice. Andrew Katz in his (#15) comment on the Boing Boing link above:
"Since, as I suspect, the electronic reading process is a transient process, and the resulting audio is not stored somewhere, then there is no fixation, and no copyright. If someone (anyone) does record the audio output, then fixation would occur.

Or could it be said the fixation is in the combination of software/hardware.

I'M SO CONFUSED!!!!!

As far as the issue re: people that write software that does the text to speech being anywhat culpable I think there is case law (in the U.S. but it might be Urban legend) where it is OK to manufacture Marijuana paraphernalia but not ok to sell or use it. Anyway, That is not really the issue. Lets leave them out of it.

Through all this I have to wonder how much compensation are is actually being talked about? Is it a nickle a copy or a dime a copy or a dollar a copy? Seems the nickle Amazon could release from their profit margin. Perhaps even the dime. If it is a dollar then hopefully the customer base would not depreciate to the point where sales drop below the balance point.

I love a good argument when I know I'm right. I hate it when I find I have to straddle a fence. Especially the pointy stake kind...

Ricardo Reis

My idea is the amount of compensation isn't important. More important is this opening a precedent in law that could amper future stuff. For it starts to boil down to a mutation on what is fixation (because, as it is text2speech the result is always the same and is there, this is a kind of fixation no?) But then everyone who does text2speech is being targeted. The other thing I'm thinking is the question of not messing up with technology, ie, technology should be agnostic. With this I strongly agree because I'm against DRM schemes. That's a reason for not getting a Kindle, it isn't open, it doesn't use a open format.

Wayne Somers

"Transience" is not relevant. If you sing a copyrighted song in a concert, or read a copyrighted poem on the radio, or produce a copyrighted play, those things are transient, but if you don't have permission of the copyright holder, you're in trouble, and you deserve to be.
"Technology" didn't begin with the Kindle, or with computers. Copyright law adapted to the new technology of radio, movies, television, phonograph records, tape recordings, and many other developments. The law can get complicated, but there is a simple way of thinking of it for those of us who are not lawyers: If somebody is making money from an author's work, the author should get a cut.
Infants, of course, don't recognize property; what they want is all that matters. Some infants have celebrated a lot of birthdays.

Ricardo Reis

Sorry Wayne but all the examples you mentioned are relate to Public Performance. Private use is something completely diferent (and for good reasons). So invoking it just ads to the noise...

here, you got something to work on "If somebody is making money from an author's work, the author should get a cut." but although it seems simple the extent of it can make you think. I don't think things, in the ground, are always that black&white...

Bryan

It sounds like from the authors' perspective that part of this problem is rooted in the angst that comes with trying to eke out a living in this brutal industry. One example from the posts says it all really: "Frankly I'm sick of giving my work away for virtually nothing. I wish I'd kept my job in IT 20 years ago rather than trying to do something fulfilling."

I'm sorry to say this, but part of the reason for not making a lot of money as an author is simply a competitive problem, not a royalty or payment problem. There is way too much competition in your field for you to demand high prices. Being fulfilling in a profit driven industry is a sure fire way to give your work away.

On the other hand, at a macroeconomic scale, the wealth created by authors goes well beyond "the middle men". There are operations folks all around the country that do design, pre-press, printing, post-press, sales, marketing, distribution and such. There is a lot of work that goes into putting that book into the readers hand. I suspect that a considerable amount of work is done with a Kindle book, but hardly to the level that we can imagine with a bound book.

So, shouldn't there be higher profits with all of these middle men cut out? My intuition says no. Part of the reason is there is less intrinsic value to a Kindle book. You can't hold it like a book. You can't smell it, it runs out of batteries and you can't flip through it's pages and admire the print and artwork. There is value in a real book, but we don't think of it that way very often. Kindle books cost less for that reason, people do not hold them of high value - so I imagine the profits are likely proportional, leaving very little room for the author to gain anything from this new technology. Which, incidentally, isn't really all that new is it? Couple that with the gazillion books at consumers' disposal and book prices will stay low.

My guess is the desire for the guild and lawyers to request some copyright protection is to too squeeze more blood from the stone that is practically dry from a highly competitive market. In other words, if you want a bigger piece of the pie, you better be special so you can demand it.

Does Amazon charge more for an audio enabled Kindle book?

ClubPenguinCheats

What's the difference between having someone read it to you (someone buys the book and reads it to you) and someone buying a kindle and have the kindle reading it to you (besides one being a machine, without intonation and knowledge of twisting the words to make them live) ? It's a prosthetic, this kindle feature, that's it. But that's even beside the point.

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If the goal were to help readers, one would think the Authors Guild would encourage the development of more convenient modes of reading. The other thing I'm thinking is the question of not messing up with technology should be agnostic.

Schufa Berlin

Bryan, 20 years in IT.. it's great!

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Bryn thanks a lot for great article.
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What's the difference between having someone read it to you (someone buys the book and reads it to you) and

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