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Hachette Group Pulling All Ebook Titles from US Stores

From Teleread.org comes this disturbing news:

"Overdrive, Mobipocket Paris, and Ingram Digital have all told us Hachette is pulling them from the feeds," Bob told me in a 4:13 a.m. update. "All the resellers may not have completed all catalog updates yet. I know that we’re auditing our updates-to make sure all Hachette is gone-‘at least until they re-authorize the U.S. channel.   This has all happened very fast and there are many moving parts to make this happen in a way that doesn’t undermine the end customer, while at the same time honoring the intent of Hachette’s action. All three distributors are working on this in partnership with Hachette. Hope this helps clarify. -No bad guys-‘just a tough situation and a little tough love from Hachette, perhaps."

Apparently there have been some geographical rights violations or something.   When an author sells his or her rights, they can do so by territorial regions such as just US rights, and then they can sell other rights (such as Spain, Germany, Japan, UK, etc) for additional money.   Some publishers, like Harlequin, buy worldwide rights.     

It sounds like these fulfillment companies like Overdrive, et al., have been making books available that shouldn’t be made available to US customers and so Hachette is pulling ALL the books which doesn’t make sense.   Surely books by Julia Harper, Michelle Rowen, and the like, have sold their rights in the US and therefore to pull those books would really punish the reader more so than anyone.

Additionally, I don’t know if this means that past titles like Twilight by Stephenie Meyer and her books will be affected.   This situation absolutely sucks and I hope it can be worked out because it is really a set back for ebook reading everytime something like this transpires.   I’ll keep you posted about what I hear.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

24 Comments

  1. Nicole
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 09:46:45

    Would this be why so many books had “NA” by them at Booksonboard last night?

  2. AnneD
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 10:25:41

    I didn’t post it at the time on which ever post it was. But just earlier this week I was wondering this same thing. Would eBooks by NY publishers infringe on international rights. Seems that might be the case.

    Of course it all hinges on contract negotiation. If the publisher wants the rights to worldwide electronic distribution in the english language and they take them, then all’s good. But if they took US rights only then the NY ePublishing section is potentially a house of cards waiting to fall.

    It would be a sad day to see FW and BoB etc locked down to US customers only the way various other major booksellers websites are.

  3. Jane
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 10:48:15

    @Nicole Yes, I think that is right.

  4. GrowlyCub
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 10:56:13

    I really don’t pay much attention to who publishes which books. Could you list some titles/authors affected besides the two you mentioned?

  5. Jane
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 10:59:22

    @GrowlyCub Stephenie Meyer, Karen Rose, Elizabeth Hoyt/Julia Harper, Stephanie Rowe, Samatha Graves, ahh. . . can’t think of anymore right at this moment.

  6. GrowlyCub
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 11:14:50

    Thanks, Jane. Julia Harper is E Hoyt? I had no idea. That’s the only one I’ve read of those listed.

    Worrisome indeed. And after reading the article I have to say, correct business decision or not, the way they went about this was as customer unfriendly as you can get. That’s not going to make Hachette any friends in the long run.

  7. Sunita
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 11:24:45

    I’m wondering if this is the beginning of the slide toward restrictions analogous to region coding on DVDs. One of the things I’ve loved about ebooks is that I can buy from UK stores and get different editions than the Americanized ones that show up here. I’m going to be seriously annoyed if they take that away. Plus, M&B have a different release schedule for Moderns and many individual books than Harlequin NA does. That’s how I picked up Ellen Hartman’s first book in e-form, and there are a lot more Medical titles on the M&B site than on the US site. I hope I’m wrong about this.

  8. Jane
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 11:27:56

    @Sunita Ah, my lovely HP pusher. I think we are safe in regards to Harlequin and Mills & Boon because they always buy world rights (I believe). I think HarperCollins (AVON) also buys world rights because their foreign rights division is so great. Some authors, though, have only sold US rights or vice versa. (i.e., Dorothy Koomson is a UK author that Karen Scott loves and only a couple of her titles have been made available to US readers via a rights sale to Bantam.)

  9. Sunita
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 11:37:50

    @Jane:
    Hey, I’m just returning the favor! You got me started on Helen Brooks and reminded me that there are a lot of HP authors who write stuff I like. Have I mentioned Marion Lennox, although she’s not HP but regular HR? I really liked The Prince’s Outback Bride. Even though it had a prince in it, which usually sends me around the bend.

    And you introduced me to the WH Smith ebookstore, where my husband and I spent way too much time and money. But that 50% off sale was irresistible.

  10. Jusy
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 13:00:53

    Oh, this is sad. I guess this is the growing pains of expanding into the technology age where you can get stuff from anywhere in the world immediately. I know actions like this is going to make some of the non-U.S. fans upset as they can get their favorite U.S. authors immediately instead of waiting for their countries to figure out when they would publish a book or the beaucoup cost of international shipping.

  11. Danielle
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 13:09:31

    I know I’m going to sound totally dumb but does this effect MobiPocket only or AdobePDF, Sony and Kindle formats alos?

  12. Jane
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 13:11:15

    @Danielle I think it affects any fulfillment company that was not abiding by the terms of the territorial agreements and that would exclude Sony and Kindle because they do their own fulfillment.

  13. AReader
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 14:10:33

    Heh I’m the reverse to Sunita, I live in the UK and buy my Harlequin novels from the NA store. They’ve had an ebook store for longer but the UK store only sells books in adobe or mobi pocket. I REFUSE to have any more of my books held hostage by Adobe again with their next wonderful upgrade (don’t suppose anyone has found a crack for adobe drm btw?). I now buy all my ebooks in microsoft reader format because I can convert to html. Until M&B starts selling those, I won’t be buying no matter what really cheap sales they have.

  14. MaryK
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 14:45:41

    I’m confused. The article says,

    “What customers are seeing is an automated error message from the Mobipocket PX server, not by BooksOnBoard, for those Hachette titles on customer bookshelves.”

    I understand that to mean people who bought Hachette books can no longer access the books they bought. Is that right? Because later he says,

    “Only real change for end users out of all this is that they cannot purchase Hachette titles from US resellers in Mobipocket, Microsoft Reader and eReader format until the US distributors and Hachette reach an understanding on territory controls.”

    which seems to be a contradiction. Can or cannot customers access books they already bought?

  15. Jane
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 14:52:56

    @MaryK I would think that you can’t access books you’ve already bought given what happens to a customer’s bookshelf when the feed is pulled ala Fictionwise and Overdrive.

  16. MaryK
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 15:11:38

    @Jane: That’s what I thought, but they really buried it in the article.

    Yay, DRM.

  17. Louise
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 16:11:42

    I’m the same with AReader.

    The main reason why I started buying ebooks was because of the titles I could purchase from American stores. I received a Sony reader from Watertones, and the range of ebooks they have on their website is darn pitiful. I trawled through 90 pages of romance titles, and only one caught my eye.

    This sucks big-time, and is pretty unfair to readers. I hope that it doesn’t happen to UK buyers any time soon. I want to be able to support the authors I love, but even for them, I refuse to pay the pricey shipping fees from the likes of Amazon.

    Also, this will NOT help the piracy issues.

  18. cecilia
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 16:59:21

    Jennifer Rardin is another – I noticed on Monday that there was a problem at Fictionwise when I tried to put it in my cart, and then on Tuesday, it had disappeared. Also, I bought Julia Harper’s book, but have not been able to download it. No response from Fictionwise since I sent in a request on Tuesday, though. :(

  19. Jia
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 17:24:19

    How is this going to affect Orbit’s new One Dollar Ebook program? Argh, Orbit’s part of Hachette too.

  20. Azure
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 17:34:53

    AReader:

    In answer to your question about cracking the DRM from adobe files, unfortunately there isn’t a program that can do it. It’s why I prefer to buy my ebooks in MS Lit or Mobi formats.

  21. Mrs Giggles
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 19:51:20

    I am NOT happy. I bought the three Elizabeth Hoyt’s early books and now I can’t download them. And I don’t think anyone is giving me a refund anytime soon. UGH. Amazon did this to me a few years ago when they yanked their ebook shelves without warning and making me lose about a hundred US dollars worth of unread books and now this.

    I’m starting to mistrust buying anything in e-format from these NY people. What, they think money grow in trees in my country or something?

  22. Jane
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 19:56:25

    @Jia Good point. I’ve sent some emails and hope to get some kind of clarification.

  23. lilitu93
    Jan 16, 2009 @ 14:09:45

    I’m also a bit miffed about this, since I live in the UK but only buy from US shops. It’s partially due to price/selection, but it’s also due to formats. Hachette UK only sells books in epub which wouldn’t be a problem, but I think the only DRM version used on epub is Adobe’s. At the moment, the only DRM format that’s of use to me is eReader, as it’s the only one supported on the iPhone. (I know how to remove it from Mobipocket, but I’m not guaranteed it will work, so I don’t want to buy it and find out it’s one of the files I can’t do it with.)

    Even if I could read DRM epub on my iPhone, I wouldn’t buy any Adobe DRM products, due to their history of yanking support for DRM schemes plus there’s no way to remove their DRM. No one wants to hack them, since they’ve sued people who’ve done it before. There was a Russian guy who did it years ago, and they stopped him from entering the US.

  24. Pirates — bad!! DRM — bad!!! what to do??? « Miss Fiddyment
    Jan 18, 2009 @ 13:28:08

    […] reminds me of a post at Dear Author this week about Hachette pulling ebook titles. It turns out that it all had to do with timing of […]

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