Tag Archives: Getting People’s Money

Reuters has today announced that Amazon and Barnes & Noble have made huge concessions to Pottermore in order to offer the Harry Potter ebooks through their online stores.

Although they won’t be able to sell the books directly, they will be directing buyers to the Pottermore site and the ebooks will be compatible with their devices/apps. This is the kind of compromise that would, almost certainly, never wash with any other author. J.K Rowling and her magical universe certainly has the power to command whatever deals she wants from retailers, but I don’t expect them to be sending their traffic and sales to many other authors or publishers in the near future.

Even The Hunger Games, which has now sold 36.5 million print copies and surpassed the Twilight movie in terms of ticket sales for the first installment of the adaption, will never be able to replicate the Pottermore effect.

The only way authors of the future will be able to do this is by keeping all the digital content rights to themselves from the beginning of the publishing process. As you can imagine, not many publishers will be keen on this idea. As Neil Blair, J.K Rowling’s agent and the man behind her own digital deals, said (and I reported here):

Digital rights are the biggest sticking point in contract negotiations, but when he asks publishers what they plan to do with those rights they usually don’t have an answer.

Now matter how savvy or creative publishers, authors and agents get in terms of selling digital content over the next few years, it seems unlikely any will be able to create the industry shake-up the Rowling has today. I certainly don’t expect to see two of the biggest book retailers handing their customers to other websites without some seriously magical intervention.


The question of what should people be paying for ebooks has been raging since the moment the first ereader hit the shelves. Google and Amazon have now become locked into a pricing standoff which has created a storm of deals for customers, but may enhance some of the other problems on the horizon for Apple.

Huffington Post Books reported that  Google Play and their bargain-basement launch offers have caused Amazon to have a bit of a moment. Is this the dawn of a shiny new competitor for the virtual retail giant?

Google Play, which seems to be remarkably similar to Amazon in their product base and selling method, have opened by offering some of their biggest name books, movies and music for just 25c. Amazon have, in response, lowered their prices to match, thus reducing the appeal of the new venture and keeping their coveted spot as the lowest of the low. (In regards to pricing, you understand.)

In a slightly related tangent, The Wall Street Journal has revealed that there is a lawsuit pending by the US Justice Department which accuses Apple and five major publishing houses (including HarperCollins Inc.) of colluding to fix ebook prices.

The case suggests that the ‘agency model’ was used in ebook contracts: publishers made deals which allowed them to set the ebook price for iBooks, of which Apple would take a 30% cut. The deals prevented the publishers from allowing any other retailer to sell those same ebooks at a lower price, which has caused the anti-trust case to be filed.

Apple has stated: ‘Nu-uh, no way, it’s all Amazon’s fault! They started it! We are just refusing to play with them’. Actually, they said:

“Before Apple entered the eBook market, one competitor, Amazon, the nation’s largest bookseller, had taken 90% of the market by pricing key eBooks below their wholesale cost”

Apple argue that they are simply using a pricing method which will be sustainable in the long-term for both their company and the publishing industry. A spokesperson pointed ut that if they continued to challenge Amazon the prices drops would harm them all.

There has certainly been support from the industry for their stance. Many retailers and publishers have spoken out saying that any action to stop or reduce the impact of the agency pricing method will give Amazon an advantage. Certainly, there is a consensus that if the stack ’em high/ sell ’em cheap model continues then there will be nothing left of the industry to sell.

Just what people will make of the Google Play Vs Amazon price smash in this arena remains to be seen. The fact that it has only pushed prices further down, even for this limited period, will certainly cause concern.

The ability to digitize information has made access to it global and instantaneous, but now there is more information out there than ever, who controls it?

Heather Brooke, writer, journalist and Freedom of Information activist, was speaking at the Bath LitFest today. As well as talking at length on the issue of online privacy and surveillance, she spoke about the copyright conundrum facing all industries and how it could be approached for this new, digital, generation.

Brooke described the internet as ‘managed chaos’ without a central authority, although it is in the process of becoming controlled by a few giant companies (such as Apple and Google) which will create a concentration of information.

She points out that although no single government or state has control over the internet as a whole, politics is becoming more and more involved in policing their country’s access to content.

Some superpowers are becoming more powerful than others at controlling content across the whole web. The USA in particular is often seen as overstepping their boundaries in terms of controlling cyberspace, such as the Megavideo shutdown .

“Has copyright become the new censorship?”

Brooke asked part-way through the talk, stressing that originally copyright was a way for a creator to profit from their art- it was not intended to prevent access to that work for future generations.

An audience member asked her why, as she is a Freedom of Information activist, should people pay for her book. She replied that her time is valuable and her ability to write books hinges on people buying them, but she wouldn’t make money on it indefinitely and she would like more freedom to post sections or other content from it online.

The conversation also turned to her job as an investigative journalist. She said that the challenge of the internet is that there is so much information thrown up that finding the valuable information is difficult. A journalist’s job is to gather that raw material and try to verify what is and isn’t fact, it’s about gaining perspective.

One of the consequences of the decline in funding for print news outlets, and the low funding of online news outlets, is that investigative journalism is being cut and underfunded. This decline means that instantaneous, knee-jerk journalism is becoming a big problem – a story can now reach across the world before the first fact-check has been completed.

Brooke did not suggest that she had answers for any of the difficulties with copyright law, in fact she said “I don’t know how to find funding for my next project”.

The publishing industry, as well as every other industry which creates digital content in any form, needs to find a way of enabling people to share their work whilst earning enough to keep making it.

After talking about such an interesting woman for so long, I can’t help but mention that  it’s International Women’s Day

(The video is from here.)

The image based social network Pinterest has become insanely popular incredibly fast over the past few months. So of course there has been much fevered discussion about how it can be used by the publishing industry.

Many publishers including Bloomsbury, Penguin and Harper Teen are already making the most of the site and this article from The Bookseller (which I found via @KatieFQ) highlights the importance of sites like Pintrest for marketing books.

The article points out that

“according to Shareaholic, Pinterest now drives more referral traffic than YouTube, Reddit, Google+ and LinkedIn”

making it an indispensible tool for promotion. Surely, only a fool would not rush into this network of selling gold…

Or should they? The internet has recently been ablaze with the news that Pinterest has some seemingly sneaky clauses in their terms and conditions

What we have to remember is that many, many sites have privacy clauses we don’t expect when we sign up to them. Because Pinterest has worded theirs in a relatively simple way, people have noticed that they state:

“By making available any Member Content through the Site, Application or Services, you hereby grant to Cold Brew Labs a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free license, with the right to sublicense, to use, copy, adapt, modify, distribute, license, sell, transfer, publicly display, publicly perform, transmit, stream, broadcast, access, view, and otherwise exploit such Member Content only on, through or by means of the Site, Application or Services.”

The use of the terms ‘sell’ ‘royalty-free’ and ‘exploit’ in reference to member owned/created content has certainly got people in a tizzy. There have, of course, been a lot of people accusing Pinterest of taking the (picture of the) biscuit.

The most important thing to consider is that this clause is not so different from those hidden in the terms of service for most other sites. Yes, that’s including the terms of service for Facebook and Twitter. People are often shocked when they’re made aware of the rights companies hold to our content on the internet.  But this doesn’t necassarily mean all social media platforms are out of the question for marketing. It certainly doesn’t mean anyone should be afraid of Pinterest.

This video, from Tech Tonic, gives a great overview of the issue, specifically relating to Pinterest:

Pinterest and Your Rights

Within reason, that there is little legal or financial reason not to advertise and promote your products on Pinterest. Especially if you are already doing those things on other social media sites. But be sure to read the terms of service, or at least google for someone who has.