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How Do We Solve a Problem Like Geographic Restrictions

Probably once a week, I get a question by (generally) non US readers asking why a certain book isn’t available to them that they KNOW is out there because they have seen it on the torrent sites. Geographic rights have become more complicated since the growth of ebooks. There are books that were removed from bookshelves; shopping places closed down to reader and this most recent wrinkle one reader shared with me:

Comments: Here’s a new twist on the geographical restrictions that I hadn’t understood in the least, and I’m sharing with you because you’re my e-book font o’ knowledge. I thought it was all publishing rights, and I couldn’t comprehend why I could buy the paper copy of the book in Canada, but not the ebook.

Then I noticed that some books that were coming up as unavailable in Canada at Books on Board showed up as available at Kobo (via chapters.indigo.ca), so I emailed BoB, and here’s what they told me:

Thank you for shopping with BooksOnBoard.
The publisher territory restrictions prevent users from purchasing titles from retailers who are not in their same country. They are designed to ensure that ebook purchases in countries where these are taxed cannot avoid paying taxes by shopping abroad. Also, since the publishing industry business model has remain almost unchanged since Gutenberg many publishers have divisions in US/Canada/Europe. It seems they parts of the whole had begun to squabble over who captured the revenue for an internet sale, the division of the publisher located where the custoemr initiated purchase from, or the division of the publisher located where the server sourcing the digital file was located. Needless to say, we also are not at all fans of the territory restrictions, especially since they seem to mostly prevent our international customers from buying from us, but it seems US consumers can still shop outside US, if they don’t mind paying the taxes. We understand the difficulty this creates for our users, but we are required to do as the publishers wish in order to be able to offer their product for sale.

Last week, there was an article in the Bookseller about how easy it was to bypass Amazon geographic limitations by merely providing a legitimate address in different countries. The Bookseller article urged Amazon to institute different procedures so that this bypass could not occur.

Geographic restrictions, in a readers’ eye, is an unreasonable impediment to purchasing a book. A reader knows that the book is out there, in digital format, one click away, and the inability to purchase it because of some incomprehensible reason termed “geographic restrictions” fosters anger, frustration, and anxiety.

Geographic restrictions made sense in the old publishing paradigm where print publishing was the only game in town. An author writes a book and with the creation of a book arises a number of rights known as intellectual property rights. Intellectual property is just a little bundle of rights that the author can sell individually or in a group. Think of the rights as a bouquet of flowers. An author could give one rose to the publisher in exchange for money or she can give a dozen or the entire garden.

flowers and rights

When authors enter into contracts with publishers, generally, they sell just a few flowers to the publishers. Those flowers give the publisher the right to use that Book in various ways but only in North America. But these contracts can vary a great deal. Foreign rights sales can end up making as much money for the author as the original advance. What I have been told by some authors is that they don’t want to impair their marketability for those foreign markets by allowing an english language digital edition to be sold in that region. Other authors say that their foreign edition rights haven’t been purchased by any publisher and they don’t want to give them up for no additional money.

In the meantime, readers see the first result on google being a link to a free copy of the book. They want to buy the book but can’t because of these geographic limitations yet downloading the book for free has virtually no barrier.

Even crazier is that there are books that have worldwide distribution like the Harlequin and Mills & Boon books but some retailers who don’t want to deal with the hassle of determining who can buy what, just shut you out. For example, I can buy a book from the Mills & Boon site, but I can’t buy those same books from Amazon UK, WH Smith or Waterstones (the latter two being UK bookstores). I used to be able to buy from WH Smith and Waterstones. I remember years ago buying PJ Tracy books in digital format there. For some reason those books weren’t available digitally in the US. I didn’t know about geographic restrictions. I only knew that I wanted those books in digital form and I happily paid for them with my US credit card and my US billing address. I’m guessing five or so years ago no one really cared about geographic limitations when it came to ebooks. Everyone was just happy getting a sale.

Unfortunately, the publishing business is not just about making a sale and I understand that. Probably no business is about just making one sale. A business should be about maximizing profits. Yet, I have to wonder whether the cumulative missed sales in a non home territory really makes good business sense, particularly now. When I saw the front page photo of Jeannie Lin’s book in the largest Vietnamese newspaper in the country, I was reminded about how global stories are. The largest English speaking country is the US but India isn’t far behind and neither are countries like China and the Phillipines.

Does foregoing digital sales in hopes of a foreign rights sale to a native publisher really make good business sense in today’s burgeoning digital market? I don’t think it does because depriving a reader of a legitimate path to purchase books makes it an easy battle for pirates to win. Obviously there are the arguments that even those books that are available worldwide are pirated (probably the most often pirated books I see are Harlequin books which have a worldwide distribution). Yet, not even making the book for sale seems to be conceding the ground. Further, couldn’t popular digital sales of a book in particular country spur foreign rights sales much like Kindle popularity has led to traditional book contracts?

Geographic restrictions (or territorial rights) is something that authors, in particular, are going to have to really pay attention to. It’s a problem in need of a good solution. A reader’s solution is to make those books available everywhere a reader is willing and able to purchase them. What’s the author or publisher solution?

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

242 Comments

  1. SarahT
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 04:48:38

    Since purchasing my digital reader in May, the number of online stores which will sell ebooks to me has dwindled. I am now totally screwed over by geographic restrictions as neither US nor UK etailers will sell ebooks to me. It is insane because many of the books at Waterstones and WHSmith could be sold legally to a customer living in Switzerland.

    Basically, unless you live in either the US or the UK, investing in a digital reader is a waste of money.

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  3. ShellBell
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 05:36:12

    Geographical restrictions are my biggest bugbear at the moment. I have been reading eBooks for over 3 years now. Like SarahT the number of online stores available for me to purchase from has dramatically reduced since April. I can still get the occasional eBook from BookOnBoard or ebooks.com. Fictionwise is pretty much redundant now and Waterstones (UK site) have emailed me advising that they will now longer allow purchases of eBooks outside of the UK and Ireland. The Kobo and Whitcoulls (which is powered by Kobo) sites are the main ones for me. Both are very slow with new releases – not sure if that is because they basically are really slow at adding books to their sites or if the eBooks themselves are not available to New Zealand buyers until a few months after the US release. I was finally able to buy the eBook for Lauren Dane’s Insatiable and Nalini Singh’s Bonds of Justice in October, 3 months after their US release date! I won’t use Whitcoulls because their customer service is appalling, so that basically leaves me with Kobo and their very limited content in their New Zealand shopfront. I’ve simply had to say goodbye to some of my favourite authors including Lora Leigh, Christine Feehan, Larissa Ione, Maya Banks, Ilona Andrews and several others. Sometimes my library has their books and sometimes it doesn’t so basically 43 lost sales for my auto-buy authors since April. What annoys me the most is that if I wanted to buy a print copy I could get it very easily but I can’t buy the format that I want the book in, which is the digital version.

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  4. mocelet
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 06:03:20

    Totally agree with everything you said. Why can’t the eBook division of a publishing house be a global division? If they really need to split the revenues up by country, then do it by the country the author is in.

    Isn’t it ironic that the music industry is starting to realise that geographic restrictions and DRM are bad for sales and are thus getting rid of them, but the eBook industry is embracing these concepts more and more.

    And don’t get me started on eBooks being sold at hardback prices…

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  5. Phantom
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 06:07:32

    *nods to ShellBell* I’ve given up on Fictionwise too, as many ebook titles are just not appearing there anymore.

    There’s always been a problem with UK readers getting paperback books months after the US release, but publishers seem to have recently figured that releasing them at the same time is helpful. Not so with ebooks, where the situation is just getting worse with the restrictions. Maybe if I owned a reader that was directly connected to a store, like the Nook or Kindle, it would be better?

    I find that now, I am going back to independent epublishers like Amber Allure, Total-e-bound etc, as you can buy their stuff wherever you live. Good on them for having no geographical restrictions, and long may it last!

    I can well imagine people not moving to ebooks because of this issue (maybe that’s the publishers’ aim!). But with more and more ‘mainstream’ authors bringing short ebook stories out to support their series’ it’s going to mean that readers won’t be able to access them either. Nalini Singh was a good example of this for me, and it just caused frustration and annoyance!

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  6. Leontine
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 06:14:15

    “depriving a reader of a legitimate path to purchase books makes it an easy battle for pirates to win.”

    That is exactly what a couple of book lovers and i were discussing too IRL. Because here in the Netherlands the translation of books in certain genres like Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy and Erotica is something to cry about. While these genres are floroushing for years now it hardly has set foot in the Netherlands. So what does the reader, like me, do who loves these genres? Right, I start to read in the original language to get my fix. As a reader I want to make a legal purchase but I’ve experienced the DRM frustration and also the extensive delayed release dates for European countries. I mainly use my e-reader for the erotica genre and have been able to find various sites who sell me the books but for traditional releases of, for instance Meljean Brook, I can’t find an online bookstore who would sell me an e-copy :( For me, the frustrations are only growing with many publishers who don’t seem to care. Their attitude is at times very agravating…

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  7. Jan
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 06:14:26

    Since I was 16 I decided to read as much books as possible in the original language. I tried to buy as many books as possible in English and French, gave up on the French after a while, but stayed a big customer at the local English bookstore and the English section of my library.

    The only books I failed to do that with were Romance books, because so few were thought worthy to import/acquire (and translate as well).

    So I kept reading the Dutch Harlequins (which try to erase all cultural references in the translation, which makes for meek and bland books).

    Then arrived the internet and ebooks and the world opened up for me. So many great authors, so many amazing books. Finally I could read what I wanted to read! Ah no, not true, Adobe Digital Editions for Mac is bugged like crazy, Kindle Books come in this crazy format only Kindle’s can read (and my country doesn’t have an amazon, let alone Kindles on the market!). So I started cracking and hacking to be able to read the books I wanted to read.

    And then suddenly they didn’t even want to sell to me? (Except for Amazon US, where the combination of taxes – which I don’t mind to pay- and the fee for the whispernet I don’t use – which I do mind to pay – is higher than the actual cost of the ebook more than half of the time.

    So now I have to pretend I live elsewhere to be able to buy books and I hate it. I find it insulting that I have to crack and hack to able to read what I want to read. I find it insulting that just because I was born where I was born, I am not deemed a valid customer, but expected to wait for years and see if a book gets translated, and cross my fingers the translation will be good enough. (Nora Roberts, a heads up, your Dutch translator is HORRIBLE).

    I am so tired of it, and so frustrated, and I think if I had a clue how to actually pirate ebooks, I’d do it. And that knowledge is only one google search away, so one of these days I’ll probably become a criminal. I want to support authors by buying their books, I want to keep the series published that I love, but if they are making it this hard, why would I stay doing that?

    I’ve always been a huge bookpusher, but I can’t do that anymore to my RL friends because everytime I have to add a whole list of instructions on how to get it legally, and they ask “why can’t you just mail it to me”, and I’m running out of reasons why.

    The internet has made the old regions almost obsolete. People read in the languages they understand, and for a lot of people at least one of those is english. Instead of making use of that advantage and the possible market you have, you are making it artificially smaller. That’s just stupid. And I know authors don’t really have a say in this, but I wished they’d at least question this policy, because if they don’t, who else will?

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  8. GrowlyCub
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 06:52:00

    I wonder how much money authors could make if they had a ‘tip jar’ on their websites. I bet a lot of people would send them money directly for books they’ve downloaded after not being able to buy them legally.

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  9. Merrian
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 06:52:19

    Living in Australia, I don’t bother looking on BoB or Fictionwise anymore there is no point, they have nothing they can sell me. Kobo and the Local Borders e-store manage geographic restrictions by not showing you the books you can’t buy. While they have books they can sell, they don’t have the books I want or the latest releases. They also have a stupid system of only selling you one book at a time. As Shellbell said for NZ, at times a print copy of a new release is available but the e-book is unavailable in this country but can be seen on the web for sale in the USA and UK. Over the past few years, if it wasn’t for the small presses, Baen and the Harlequin website there would be little e-reading joy for me in my preferred genres.
    Isn’t one of the points of e-reading, one of the things we are buying along with our content – immediacy? That is, the capacity to have something almost instantly, when we want it? If the issue is taxation regimes then get together and solve it, don’t ignore the issue because it isn’t going away only getting in the way. Haven’t they heard of free trade?

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  10. Bronte
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 07:00:44

    Merrian, I feel your pain. I also live in Australia and have been basically unable to obtain ebooks. I had hoped when borders opened their ebook store that I might finally have some joy but there was none.

    Publishers have lost at least 30 book sales from me since they cracked down on geographical restrictions in April. I refuse to buy these books in print because I’m sick of paying $20 for a book that I then end up throwing away because I don’t have any room to store the book. And if there are people working for publishers reading, yes you are encouraging piracy.

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  11. Marg
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 07:08:52

    I have only just bought my ereader, but as an Australian reader it is obvious that I am not going to be able to access the books that I want to read on it.

    It seems that you are reduced to straight out lying about where you live, and even then some sites can tell where your ISP address is from) or going without.

    I want to spend money supporting my favourite authors, but apparently because of where it is coming from my money isn’t good enough.

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  12. farmwifetwo
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 07:14:34

    Once upon a time I never noticed release dates. I found a book I liked – library usually – borrowed it or bought it in the store.

    Then I wandered online about 6yrs ago and learned about publishing etc.

    Ironically, quite often over the last few years we can get new releases from Chapters earlier by a few weeks than their US release. Suz B and JD Robb’s are a couple I’ve gotten early over the years. I suspect it’s b/c our sales numbers are not on any “list”.

    The Amazon war heated up b/c the wanted to put in a warehouse in Mississauga. Amazon won in the end. I hope this makes shipping faster. It’s nice they ship UPS and overnight, but to wait 2 weeks for them to even package the books up, which are all in stock, give me a break. Chapters gets here faster and it comes via the infamously slow Canada Post. Living rural though, I hope if finally gives me access to some of the other non-book items.

    I have bought from B&N and Amazon.com from the USA with a Cdn address and had my books delivered. I suspect we can do that b/c of NAFTA.

    I’ve only ordered books from Kobo. And yes they are slow to load the new ebooks. But as a 90% library reader and an amazing ILL system… there’s very few books I have to have “NOW!!!” in “e” so I wait, get it from the library or in print.

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  13. Edie
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 07:19:43

    I understand about the wanting to hold off, etc on international rights so they can be sold.. well sorta.

    But the thing that gets me, is 90 per cent if not more of the ebooks I want to pick up, are never going to be released in Australia. (Most publishers here only release a very small number of romances, and then it is only the really big authors.) So I really do not understand the banning us of buying them.

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  14. Shiloh Walker
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 07:40:53

    @Jan

    I want to support authors by buying their books, I want to keep the series published that I love, but if they are making it this hard, why would I stay doing that?

    This is just my viewpoint, but…Jan, it’s not us…the authors . Geographic restrictions are something that frustrate many of us as well. It boils down to contracts and basically just how things have generally been done.

    I don’t think authors are going to the publishers and saying, “Don’t allow my ebooks to be sold outside the US and the UK.”

    With contracts, everything breaks down to provisions, it seems and there’s simply no provision for something like this-it’s all too new. And yes, even though digital has been here since the 90s, it’s still relatively new-especially as far traditional publishers go-it’s only gotten huge in the past few years and it’s going to take them a few more to catch up and work things out.

    Digital changes things-we all know this.

    Somebody mentioned that the music industry is realizing geographic restrictions complicate things-I hope the publishing industry will realize that as well.

    Hopefully things will improve (I think they will), but digital publishing is changing the game right now and anytime something changes the game, it complicates things. Complications are what leads to growth. However… growth isn’t easy. It requires shakeups and difficulties.

    I know emailing customer service is a fricking pain, but maybe that’s the foreign customers need to start doing. Regularly. Making a point of just how many sales are being lost because of geographical restrictions-but don’t email the booksellers. Email the publishers.

    Perhaps the answer lies in something like allowing a provision in the contract for worldwide English digital rights. That would be a new flower, so to speak, but it’s one that wouldn’t interfere with foreign translations sales, foreign print sales, etc. I don’t know enough about that particular aspect to even know if it’s something pubs would consider.

    Authors want readers to have our books-we really, really do. Geographic restrictions interfere with that. But the publishing industry moves at a snail’s pace and adjusting to all the changes in the industry is taking time.

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  15. Edie
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 08:08:54

    As this is a favourite ranting topic of mine, I couldn’t help but come back with another point.

    I not sure about other countries, but most of our publishers are owned or slightly different arms of American publishers, so not sure why the oz arms can’t at least run the ebooks off their sites, even if they are not going to do a print run. The money from sales is still going to trickle back to the US pub.

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  16. Jan
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 08:29:08

    @Shiloh
    I realize this isn’t authors fault at all – the they in that quote was referring to the publishers.
    But I do believe if joint complaints by authors and customers would make the biggest impact in this case.

    So often all the power is shifted to the customers only (“vote with your wallet etc…), but since my wallet isn’t a wanted wallet in this scenario, what am I to vote with?

    (On a sidenote, I can’t help but question the sanity of people negating the advantages of digitalizing. In my eyes it’s just sheer stupidity. It’s like buying a hybrid car and then running it àn petrol only.)

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  17. Jane
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 08:32:12

    @Shiloh Walker Geo restrictions are really an authorial problem, in my opinion. Authors are not giving up digital world rights because they want money for that and pubs aren’t paying extra for that right. So the authors are making a decision, maybe unconsciously, that it’s better to hold on to digital English rights in foreign countries in hopes of a better deal down the road. As Edie points out, many of these publishers are global like Random House, Penguin and Hachette and they have the ability to sell in other countries. Further, with etailers being global like Kobo and Amazon there are avenues of purchase for non North American customers. Publishers are happy to take as many rights as an author is willing to cede to them.

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  18. Janet P.
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 09:06:11

    I’m another that it is hard for me to wrap my brain around the concept that somebody is blocking sales of the eBook in foreign lands because they want to make money from the sale of Books in foreign lands.

    I think that as digital reading becomes more dominant, it will become obvious that a large percentage of those with eReaders will not buy paper copies of most books. If you won’t sell them the eBook, then you are not going to sell them the book. They’ll simply move their purchasing dollars to an eBook that is available.

    At least that is what I would do.

    Australia, such a wonderful place but from everything I read boy do they give their people who like to read books an obstacle course to navigate. I’m not sure what I’d do if I lived there. Become and expert at all the various methods to spoof IPs I guess.

    People shouldn’t have to feel like a criminal because they want to buy a book.

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  19. Doug
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 09:19:54

    Canadians face an additional hurdle: the Investment Canada Act protects Canadian authors, publishers, distributors, booksellers, and culture against competition from Americans and others.

    Last April Amazon finally got approval from the Ministry of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages to build a book distribution center in Canada. That approval cost Amazon $20 million and a pledge to promote Canadian authors worldwide. Prior to that, amazon.ca was essentially a storefront for Canada Post (an arrangement that Indigo sued to block back in 2002).

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  20. Jill Sorenson
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 09:30:10

    @Jane: Are most authors holding on to digital world rights? According to my Random House contract, I don’t retain those. And my understanding is that Harlequin keeps even more of the bouquet (foreign language rights). That said, just because my publisher owns those rights doesn’t necessarily mean they will utilize them.

    I’d love to see my books available in many languages and countries, but I’m not sure that’s a reasonable expectation for an unknown author. Assuming that selling an English-language book in a foreign market isn’t as simple as one-click, and that those sales (for me personally) would be low, I understand why my publishers might consider the resulting piracy negligible.

    That’s not to say that I don’t care about the problem, just that I’m not sure what to do about it.

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  21. Angela
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 09:35:30

    Geographical restrictions really are ridiculous in my opinion. I live in the US, and don’t experience as many problems with this as so many of my friends do, but it frustrates even me.

    The largest English speaking country is the US but India isn't far behind and neither are countries like China and the Phillipines.

    Not only this, but we’re in a global economy. Let’s stop throwing up borders on the internet and making it impossible for people to legally do what they want to do – support authors and buy books. This really just needs to be figured out.

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  22. Keishon
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 09:38:03

    Jane said:

    @Shiloh Walker Geo restrictions are really an authorial problem, in my opinion. Authors are not giving up digital world rights because they want money for that and pubs aren't paying extra for that right. So the authors are making a decision, maybe unconsciously, that it's better to hold on to digital English rights in foreign countries in hopes of a better deal down the road.

    To piggyback off of this comment, Diana Gabaldon did a recent article on discussing territorial rights in relation to her new graphic novel, THE EXILE, because she’s been getting complaints from readers who can’t buy the damn book.

    To quote Ms. Gabaldon: “Well, see, the way that publishing works is that a publishing company buys certain specific _rights_ to a book. If you have a decent agent, you _don't_ sell “worldwide rights” to your manuscript; the agent makes separate deals with individual publishers in different countries. Each publishing contract defines exactly which rights you're selling-’and the “exclusive territory” in which the book can be sold.”

    Extrapolate as you see fit and that is pretty much what Jane says in her article and there is your author, saying don’t sell worldwide rights.

    As a US reader, I find it rather frustrating to see US authors digital books sold in other countries but they are unavailable to me to here. Guess they paid more for those digital rights than the US. See, I understand the system but doesn’t mean I have to support or agree with it. My mantra still remains: if the book isn’t available in the format that I want (digital) or unavailable at all then I just don’t buy it AT ALL.

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  23. Jess Granger
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 09:48:23

    We’re not given the option, Jane. There’s no “Standard Clause” for universal digital rights for us to sell. If you’ve dealt with publishing contracts at all, especially if you are a new or midlist author(that’s most of us) you know that if the clause isn’t “standard” it causes problems. And really our only negotiating leverage is to not sign at all. What good does that do any of us.

    I’d love to be in a position to think, “Oh, I shouldn’t do this because Maybe I’ll get foreign rights sales.” For most of us that isn’t a reality. A foreign rights sale is huge, and rare. So terribly rare. As a midlist author you can’t count on any foreign rights sales. They’re like lottery winnings. I’d love to be able to sell the works to anyone internationally who wants them.

    But until publishers figure out that A: how to get around the legal issues of taxation and sales in foreign countries that restrict or sensor their content, and B: that universal digital rights for a LANGUAGE instead of a location would be profitable, we’re not going to see that standard clause in a contract for any of the big name publishers any time soon.

    The best authors can do is bring it up in contract negotiations, (even though they’re probably not going to pay a whole lot of attention to it) and encourage potential customers of a universal English digital rights sale to complain to the publishers and show them there’s a market.

    I can’t speak for everyone, but that’s my two cents. Especially starting out, every sale counts. I’d love a valid way to have those sales. Discussions like this help.

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  24. Jess Granger
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 10:01:04

    What Diana was saying is that as you get to be a big name in publishing, you have the clout to keep the world rights and sell them directly to any interested party.

    Before you have the clout to do that, your current publisher keeps those rights they sell them, acting as your agent in a way, and they only give you a percentage of the foreign advance instead of the author getting to keep the whole thing.

    All Diana was saying is that when a an author gets big enough, they can deal directly with foreign publishers and keep all those profits instead of having to share a cut with their American publisher.

    That said, you still have to wait for a foreign publisher to be interested in you. That is still rare.

    I don’t think she was talking about “holding out” on any rights, just not splitting foreign advances with her publisher.

    If there was a rose that was Univeral digital rights in English, then we’d probably negotiate about that differently. Would it affect the interest of foreign publishers? Maybe, who knows? It doesn’t exist yet, so how can authors be holding it back?

    I’m with Shiloh, I don’t know a single author, even Diana that doesn’t want to sell their books.

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  25. J
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 10:10:43

    Here is my view:

    Authors need to do more to ensure that their book is available to all readers, no matter where they are. Depending on publishers to ensure that is ridiculous, times have changed and so too most the author publisher relationship and author customer(reader) relationship.

    Its the failure of the industry and the way authors view there publishers that have allowed privacy to become almost common place now a days. It used to be hidden very little books available although eBooks were out. Now I can Google almost any book and on the first page there is a site that I can download it from for “free”.

    How can we expect people who can’t get it otherwise to just give into the temptation and download.

    Authors own the rights to their work if a publisher wouldn’t publish it as an eBook and there is a demand for their work as an eBook its up to them to try to meet that demand or some “pirate” will do it for them.

    It is really the authors who lose when hundreds of their books are being downloaded by “pirates”. If it starts to affect the publisher they cut the series and move on to another one they feel will sell better. Readers may miss your series but they are still going to buy the next hit series that come along.

    In my view its time for authors to get innovative, gone are the days where you could just sell your rights to publishers and let them figure out how to sell it to the various markets.

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  26. Keishon
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 10:19:48

    Ms. Granger, I appreciate your comments. I’m just a reader. How publishing works is over my head obviously and to be honest, I don’t care how it works. I only see/care about the end results. Bottom line for me is this: either it’s available to me or it’s not and thus it’s a lost sale. I’m not one of those readers who buys paper when the digital format is unavailable to me.

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  27. farmwifetwo
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 10:38:59

    @Keishon:

    And then you listen on blogs about loss of sales from UBS’s. Friend’s sending copies they no longer read. Libraries… just think, a Prov like Ontario has usually only on average about 3 copies of a romance novel btwn all those libraries out there… and there’s 2 libraries in my rinky-dink tiny Municipality… One book I just took out via ILLO had 6 copies – a mystery – 6 copies and Toronto alone has how many people in it??? The average buyer buys all of 8 or so books a year???

    Prices are high, times are tight, and geographical restrictions a PITA…. And as a reader, I’m going to find what I want, at my convienience and the price I’m willing to pay… or as I do for 90% of my books – borrow for free from the Ontario wide library system.

    I currently have huge credit at my Mother’s UBS… I intend to spend it instead of buying new. With the kobo, I am actually buying considerably less b/c I no longer can justify a TBR, nor do I need to have $39 in books for free shipping and I can get my hqns just as cheap via kobo as at Zellers… again buying only those I wish, not splurging and buring the price of books I just spent in the rest of my shopping.

    Authors need to start thinking seriously about the ebook market. Cutting out readers from European, Commonwealth and Asian countries, is not putting money in your bank accounts. It’s upsetting readers, and in the end, they won’t buy even if you do release it months or more in the future. http://www.cbc.ca/technology/story/2010/10/29/ereader-kobo-kindle-sony.html The market is growing and just from polling friends etc, the one’s buying digitally are your big book buyers… not the average person… but the one that’s going to keep you published… those of us that read a book every day or 2.

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  28. Has
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 10:39:02

    I am finding this issue is more frustrating than anything else and its not with ebooks. Increasingly like a few other commentators have said its affecting print books especially with delayed release dates or even the fact they aren’t available at all even from the online book stores.

    I own an ereader and I prefer buying ebooks because I don’t have much more space for print. But if I cannot get an ebook due to geo rights its a lost sale! Its also very frustrating when people have to go through hoops to try to get an ebook- I think if publishers don’t try to resolve this its only going to lead more people to pirate books which is pretty ironic.

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  29. Mary G
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 10:46:16

    Thanks for these posts Jane. All is does is confirm my confusion about what ereader to buy here in Canada. It’s an informed confusion though. I just want to go anywhere & buy an ebook & download simply as I’m no technie.

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  30. Jess Granger
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 10:48:26

    I completely understand that, and appreciate the frustration, Keishon. Believe me. I’m a reader too, and I get frustrated with it.

    I just feel like there’s an over expectation for what an author is able to do. We can’t control our covers, titles, sometimes even our pen names. We can’t control if a book is out in Mass Market or Trade, or ebook, or the price of an ebook, or the format…

    It goes on and on.

    To suddenly expect us to have control over international distribution of our work even though there’s no legal contract clause that has been vetted through international trade law, is way over our power as writers.

    Even if we exercised all the power we possibly have as authors and completely self publish a work, (Fighting tooth and nail for good formatting, editing, artwork, and not being able to write three to four books a year) even then, using all the power we possibly have, I still don’t think we could make those books available to a world wide market.

    I’m not sure about that, but that’s my suspicion. Can someone in NZ purchase a self published work any easier?

    I still think you’re going to come up against the problem of taxes, censorship, and international trade law.

    As it stands right now, we can’t get our work out to international markets unless international publishers are interested. Diana’s books isn’t available to international markets probably because no international publishers are interested, yet.

    This is the frustration of the internet. We can see what’s out there so much more easily, but the globe hasn’t quite shrunk enough to make all of it readily available.

    Hopefully soon.

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  31. SarahT
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 10:54:32

    “Can someone in NZ purchase a self published work any easier?”

    I’m in Switzerland, not NZ, but I’ve never had a problem purchasing self-published ebooks via Smashwords, Amazon, etc.

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  32. Janet P.
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 11:35:42

    yes, readers can easily purchase self-published eBooks.

    I think much of the frustration on the part of readers is that this road block is unique to digital books in that the Point of Sale is determined to be the home residence of the buyer, end of story. So even if somebody from Australia gets on a plane and travels to the US, they still have to lie to Amazon to make some eBook purchases and pretend their home address is their hotel in NYC.

    For instance, when I decided I wanted a set of Harry Potter books in Italian, even though I live in the US – I wasn’t told “Sorry, you aren’t allowed to buy those.” I simply had to contact an Italian bookstore and pay their price and shipping, and then pay my credit card company to do the currency conversion.

    eBook buyers don’t have any similar option though. They are just told “No. You can’t have it. End of story. Go away.”

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  33. Allison Brennan
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 11:35:51

    Well said, Shiloh.

    Authors WANT their books available for sale around the world. The reason many of us don’t give up world rights is because just by selling the publisher world rights doesn’t mean that the publisher will be able to distribute the books (e or print) in every territory. When You sell the publisher world rights, they have the right to sell (and share sales with the author) in all territories. Random House, which has divisions around the world, are all separately run entities under the Bertelsmann umbrella. And some countries aren’t going to buy the rights, making them unavailable to certain regions.

    Authors are fighting for more sales because it helps us to have our books available in every country of the world. BoB may have a point in that the system is a bit archaic and needs change, and authors are working on changing contracts every time we go back to contract. But to put all the blame on authors is not to fully understand the publishing business or publishing contract law.

    Shoot me down, I expect it from this site. But Shiloh is a friend and I admire and respect her greatly, and don’t like it when someone who has the courage to stand up and speak is shot down.

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  34. GrowlyCub
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 11:43:30

    @Allison Brennan:

    Authors have no power?! So they ask their readers to take on their fight for better distribution with the publishers? Really?

    I’m not clear on why it’s the readers’ responsibility to change the way publishing works. You accuse readers of not understanding how publishing works, I ask why should we?

    If I want to buy a toaster I don’t have to understand how it’s manufactured. I just go to the store and buy it. Nobody in their sane mind requires me to lobby a retail outlet to stock their products, so I can buy them.

    Authors are part of the publishing system and therefore the only ones who can affect the system from the inside. Trying to push that responsibility onto readers with ‘woe is me’ whines ain’t working for this consumer.

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  35. Christine M.
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 11:54:48

    @Mary G: Quebecer living on the Ontario border here :) I have to say that while it’s more expensive, I am quite satisfied with the Sony. With georestrictions, Kindle books are not as widely available in Canada as it appears at first sight on Amazon’s website. Can’t say about Kobo, haven’t tried it, nor do I know what the estore looks like. At least though, all its content will be avaialble to you. With the Sony, you can also rent books in Ontario libraries that offer ebooks (like the Ottawa library network). Not sure if the Kobo allows it. I also like that the sony reads just about anything I throw at it. All those fanfics I’d saved in doc files got a second life on the Reader. /my two cents.

    As for the topic at hand,like I mentionned, I’m Canadian and even though we’re right across the border, we also suffer from georestrictions for ebooks and paper books (worked in a bookstore for a couple of years, ended up learning a *lot* about the subtleties of publishing).

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  36. SarahT
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 12:02:24

    “The reason many of us don't give up world rights is because just by selling the publisher world rights doesn't mean that the publisher will be able to distribute the books (e or print) in every territory. ”

    I realise that the whole issue of rights is complicated, but as a consumer living outside the US, the bottom line for me is this: I can purchase a print copy of pretty much any book from Amazon, The Book Depository, or even my local book store. As a reader who wants to read digitally, it makes no sense to me to be told I can’t buy the US ebook edition of a particular novel, nor the UK ebook edition, but I CAN get it in print. I’m sorry, but this just serves to piss customers off, particularly those of us who own ereaders and wish to support the new technology.

    I honestly don’t know who can/should sort this mess out, but I really hope someone does.

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  37. Jess Granger
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 12:11:29

    If you want a toaster, and you can’t find it at Target, you go to customer service and complain that you couldn’t find a toaster. Or you go on Amazon and order one online. Or you complain to Amazon that they don’t sell toasters and you want one.

    You don’t go to the toaster inventor and complain that his toasters aren’t distributed in Target.

    So yes, some of this has to be driven by demand from the readers. It can’t all be on the authors.

    We don’t have power because we don’t have leverage. We want the contract more than the publisher wants to give it to us. Especially right now we are fighting tooth and nail for any contract a publisher is willing to give us. Times are hard for everyone, and contracts are difficult to land right now. Until you are big enough that the publisher wants you more than you want them, there’s no leverage to change how they run their contract department. It’s take it or leave it.

    Due to the promotion efforts of authors, there’s an illusion that we are selling books directly to our readers. This is true in one aspect, I certainly do my best to promote directly to readers since they are the people I’m writing for, but I sell my work to a publisher, they then give it to a bookseller, and the bookseller gives it to the readers. While the author’s face and name become the front for that, even if I wanted to, contractually I can’t sell directly to readers because of my contract with the publishers. But I can’t publish it on my own. I can’t afford to, and I don’t have the time or expertise. So, we have to deal with the system at hand and do our best to change it with the leverage we have.

    If there’s a hitch in the system somewhere in there, then there’s a hitch in the system. It will take the whole system to change it. No amount of “Well what about this?” in contract negotiations will force a big name publisher to invest in a new idea unless they think it is profitable.

    Authors love our readers. We want you to be able to buy our books without hassles, we want you to read and enjoy them. We’re doing our best in hard times. Please give us the benefit of the doubt and understand that we understand the frustration and we’re frustrated too.

    But none of us can move a mountain overnight. And Shiloh is right, the demand for ebooks is in its infancy. Publishing needs to grow and change. It will take time, and it will take the effort of everyone.

    I hope the publishing industry listens, but it is going to take time and patience from everyone, I’m afraid.

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  38. TKF
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 12:29:58

    I sent a prepaid debit card (you can buy them at places like Wal-Mart and Walgreens) to a friend in Bangladesh. She uses that to buy ebooks from Amazon.com and so far hasn’t had a problem.

    The geographic restrictions seem crazy to me, because you can buy the PRINT book from Amazon and they’ll mail it to you anywhere in the world (I buy books from Amazon.uk all the time).

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  39. Isobel Carr
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 12:42:59

    @Jane:

    Geo restrictions are really an authorial problem, in my opinion. Authors are not giving up digital world rights because they want money for that and pubs aren't paying extra for that right.

    Both my publishers own my digital world rights (this is pretty standard, unless you’re big enough to have some leverage). Sadly, I have no say in how (or if) they use them.

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  40. Janet P.
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 12:50:21

    “If you want a toaster, and you can't find it at Target, you go to customer service and complain that you couldn't find a toaster. Or you go on Amazon and order one online. Or you complain to Amazon that they don't sell toasters and you want one.”

    But that isn’t really the case here. In this case Target HAS the toaster. You can see the toaster sitting there on the shelf.

    But when you take it up to the cash register they demand to see your ID and tell you “sorry, you live in Pittsburgh so we aren’t allowed to sell you this toaster. Next?”

    And that’s why the readers are so frustrated. The product exists. Retailers have the product. Buyers have the money. But the transaction is blocked for stupid reasons. It is yet another instance of the Publishers sticking themselves into the transaction between the Retailer and the Buyer.

    And yes, I agree that most authors are powerful. But they have all their Guilds and Associations and gents and Unions and in the end … it is THEIR product.

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  41. Maili
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 12:52:22

    Nowadays, I only buy books available to me. Those that aren’t, I ignore them. Lost sales to authors, I know, but I don’t care any more. I have pretty much stopped figuring out a way to buy a copy.

    It does affect my reading choices, though. I’m reading literary fiction and crime fiction a lot more these days because these are available in digital format at bookdepository.com, WHS, Waterstone’s, etc. The Romance genre in digital format seems the most inaccessible to me, which results a lot fewer romance novel purchases. Last year I bought 183 (cringe!) digital rom novels. Most were impulse buys and the rest came from recs from readers on Twitter. This year after Spring? Just nine. Most digital purchases these days are British crime novels and British editions of European & Asian crime novels from WHS and elsewhere.

    I now simply refuse to jump through hoops to get a book I want. If it’s not available to me, then it’s no skin off my nose as there are other books I can buy instead.

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  42. Jess Granger
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 13:16:04

    Authors will do what authors can do. Readers will do what readers can do. Eventually everything will even out in the end. It’s going to take patience.

    I do agree with everyone, it’s stupid. It should change. I believe with time, it will work out.

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  43. Deb
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 13:36:26

    When the business model is based on print, all involved i.e. publishers, agents and yes, authors, the business practices are going to be geared to protect their business. Makes perfect sense to me. Digital releases cut into the most profitable side of the business. Artificially slowing the growth of digital books seems to be a good approach to protecting the old model. Geo restrictions, price inflating, windowing releases certainly slow digital growth down.

    But you can’t be surprised when you have to deal with piracy. Seems pretty simple. People want to buy books, can’t because of geo restrictions, they turn to googling for sites they can obtain those books. That makes sense to me too. I’m not an advocate of piracy, don’t have a single bootleg copy of any digital books, but I can certainly understand the impetus here. To not be able to legally obtain the books, with an open wallet, seems pretty ridiculous.

    It’s not my responsibility as the consumer/reader to effect the changes necessary. I do that by buying the books. Everyone in the publishing industry holds some responsibility here.  

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  44. Jane
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 13:36:35

    @Allison Brennan Just curious why Shiloh’s comment disagreeing with readers is appropriate but disagreeing her is deemed “shooting down”. I presume that you are insulting us here at Dear Author but I will choose to view your comments as a compliment because yes, Dear Author is a place were vigorous debate can take place and where a commenter does not need to abide by the mysogynistic refrain that has been drummed into many women of a certain generation that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. I abide by the maxim that if you have an opinion you stand up for it.

    I’m not sure what Shiloh being your friend has to do with anything but thanks for letting us know about your friendship.

    As for authors and rights, I think it clearly falls into the author to exploit her rights to the best of her ability. Readers have no ability to legally exploit those rights. Only authors do and through contracts between the author and publishers, the publishers do. I am sure that you realize that readers are the only party in the entire exchange that gains nothing in monetary terms from any transaction involving these rights. Only the author, publisher and retailer do.

    Authors choose to sign with certain publishers for certain terms. Readers KNOW that there are publishers who provide worldwide access to their books but for various reasons, Authors choose to sign with other publishers. This is the author’s right. I’m just suggesting that maybe, in determining with whom to publish and how to publish, this idea of restricting global digital rights should be considered.

    Authors are the one binding themselves to agreements, not readers. It is authors who are not getting clauses included in their contract that requires the exploitation of certain rights within a certain time (i.e., most contracts require publishing of a work within a certain period of time or the rights can be returned), not readers.

    Why should readers be the one that have to rattle the saber, coordinate group emailing efforts, etc? Do you really think that most people are going to try to do this or are they going to lie about where they live so that they can buy from a particular store or are they going to just download the book?

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  45. Author On Vacation
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 13:39:40

    @Keishon:

    Jane said:

    @Shiloh Walker Geo restrictions are really an authorial problem, in my opinion. Authors are not giving up digital world rights because they want money for that and pubs aren't paying extra for that right. So the authors are making a decision, maybe unconsciously, that it's better to hold on to digital English rights in foreign countries in hopes of a better deal down the road.

    To piggyback off of this comment, Diana Gabaldon did a recent article on discussing territorial rights in relation to her new graphic novel, THE EXILE, because she's been getting complaints from readers who can't buy the damn book.

    To quote Ms. Gabaldon: “Well, see, the way that publishing works is that a publishing company buys certain specific _rights_ to a book. If you have a decent agent, you _don't_ sell “worldwide rights” to your manuscript; the agent makes separate deals with individual publishers in different countries. Each publishing contract defines exactly which rights you're selling-’and the “exclusive territory” in which the book can be sold.”

    Extrapolate as you see fit and that is pretty much what Jane says in her article and there is your author, saying don't sell worldwide rights.

    I never assigned Diana Gabaldon to speak up for me. Nor do I necessarily endorse Ms. Gabaldon’s concepts of how to do business. I’m not making a judgment call or a morality call on Ms. Gabaldon’s viewpoint, she is a great author and she can and should market her work to maximize profits on her work.

    However, Ms. Gabaldon is an individual making an individual statement. Utilizing her as an example of how all/most authors feel and work isn’t very logical.

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  46. mocelet
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 13:43:46

    I am not familiar with the details of the publishing world, so this is based on what I have read in these comments….

    If some authors are retaining the worldwide English eBook rights, is there an opportunity for a company to buy those rights and market the ebook worldwide?

    Or maybe a company that does the marketing, sales, delivery and money collection, but only pays per sale, with no advance to the author?

    Or are these ideas not compatible with the contracts that authors have?

    I know of at least one author (Steve Jordan) who is entirely self published, and has a good following. It appears that he might be opening his sales system up to other authors. Perhaps the mechanism to support my ideas are already in place…

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  47. Jane
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 13:43:57

    @SarahT I think this is the most baffling – that you can order and get the paper book but you cannot order and get the digital book. I really can’t wrap my head around that.

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  48. BP
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 13:45:05

    The simple fact is this, people can now have one light weight device with hundreds of books on it in their handbag. You also have agencies like the one I work for lobbing against industries like this that currently rely heavily on paper, that are gaining alot of leverage each day.
    So I hear the world patience being thrown around I don’t know what to do about it from some of the authors here. Well it needs to be figured out pretty quick. Traditional bookstores etc are closing down worldwide, traditional publishing which I see as the problem here, is a sinking ship.
    Consumers don’t get patient they move on to whoever will satisfy there need and the demand for eBooks worldwide is only growing.
    With over one million kindle sold world wide infancy is not what I would call the eBook industry.
    Question Why can’t authors ban together and tell the publisher what they need? In a unified voice?

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  49. GrowlyCub
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 13:49:58

    My impression is that it’s theoretically illegal to sell out of region copies, but because it traditionally has not been that large a share, pubs don’t enforce. Now, I may completely misremembering but that’s what I recollect a US bookseller telling me at the Frankfurt Bookfair in the late 90s.

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  50. Moriah Jovan
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 14:00:14

    @Keishon:

    My mantra still remains: if the book isn't available in the format that I want (digital) or unavailable at all then I just don't buy it AT ALL.

    I’ve pretty much evolved to this, and I’m in the process of getting rid of my MMPBs.

    @Jess Granger:

    Can someone in NZ purchase a self published work any easier?

    Trust me, I have readers from all over the world who buy from me directly. *waves to Edie and Estara et al* It’s as easy as throwing up a (free) shopping cart, viz., B10 Mediaworx.

    Goodness, if a self-published author can’t control her own rights, she doesn’t deserve to have any.

    When you’re in the grocery store and you’re craving sausage, nobody cares how it’s made or how it got to the store. It just needs to be there.

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  51. Author On Vacation
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 14:02:58

    @GrowlyCub:

    @Allison Brennan:

    Authors have no power?! So they ask their readers to take on their fight for better distribution with the publishers? Really?

    I'm not clear on why it's the readers' responsibility to change the way publishing works. You accuse readers of not understanding how publishing works, I ask why should we?

    I am an author. I am also a voracious bookworm, and I can tell you it has never occurred to me to blame an author for his/her work not being available to me.

    If I want the author’s work, I will take the necessary steps to obtain it in an appropriate, legal manner. Sometimes this means extra work on my part. Sometimes this means I must compromise on the format/s and condition/s of the book/s.

    Example: in the case of out of print books, I have to buy secondhand books which may not be in the best condition.

    There are many books I love and would like to own in an electronic format, but those books are unavailable to me. Even here in the U.S.. Most of Anne Rice’s books remain unavailable in e-format. So do Noel Streatfield’s books.

    I realize we live in an age of instant gratification and entittlement mindset, but at the end of the day, either I want a book or I don’t. If I want it, I’ll get it if I can. If I want it and I can’t get it, I’ll find something else to read.

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  52. Keishon
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 14:03:14

    @Author On Vacation: I never said Diana Gabaldon exemplified or represented anybody. I quoted what she said in reference to her explaining why her graphic novel isn’t available in the UK and Germany among others. Also, I said she is one author who doesn’t believe in selling world wide rights of her books and yes that is her choice, on how to maximize her profits.

    I get it though. Not every country will buy your book due to probably, no interest. I am also coming to the conclusion that it’s just easier to accept the standard contract to get published rather than make some concessions that may rock the boat a little or hinder your publishing career. Nobody told me these things and I might be off track. I don’t much care. It’s the perception I have and like I said, if the book isn’t available to me, so be it. It’s a lost sale. My money can be spent elsewhere.

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  53. Allison brennan
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 14:05:57

    @growlycub

    I don’t think you were commenting on my comment because I didn’t say that authors have no power, nor did I suggest that readers take up the fight. I was simply stating that there is more going into world English digital rights than the author having the ability to solely affect change. Even if I give my publisher world digital rights, and beg them to release my books digitally in every country, they may not be able to do it because of international reasons, they may not be able to sell the rights, they may not think that the expense of publishing in 120 countries is worth it for what is small sales compared to my print sales. I don’t know. Do I think the system should change? Much of it. Am I willing to walk if that’s a sticking point for my publisher? No. That’s my right as an author. I wholly support digital publishing, but as a small businesswoman I need to look at the big picture when I go into negotiations. Authors are fighting for these things all the time, every time we go to contract, but it’s not black and white. I don’t expect readers to understanding publishing law. I pointed out that there are many things going into the decisions made by publishers and authors.

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  54. GrowlyCub
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 14:07:24

    @Author On Vacation:

    I knew it wouldn’t be long before the ‘entitlement’ bullshit would rear its ugly head.

    So, I, reader, whom you, author, expect to fork over *my* money, I’m evincing entitlement when I say I want to buy your book legally?

    But you telling me it’s my responsibility to fight to get you a better publishing contract, that’s not entitlement?

    Yeah, right.

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  55. Maili
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 14:09:22

    @Allison Brennan: But to put all the blame on authors is not to fully understand the publishing business or publishing contract law.

    Isn’t this an agent’s job via contract? I honestly don’t see how readers can do anything that could affect the current system. At best, readers’ complaint only assures publisher that the author’s contract is worth renewing, but it doesn’t mean it’d change their stance on the global digital distribution issue. I truly believe this is something I think only agents and authors can do. Feel free to correct me, though.

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  56. Author On Vacation
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 14:16:15

    @Jane:

    @SarahT I think this is the most baffling – that you can order and get the paper book but you cannot order and get the digital book. I really can't wrap my head around that.

    This is only my opinion. It seems likely to me publishers are attempting to slow ebook sales growth in an attempt to minimize loss as the industry acclimates to virtual technology and the new demands related to that.

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  57. Maili
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 14:17:04

    @GrowlyCub: You’re right. Amazon and the like trade in the grey market. It’s an accepted evil, it seems.
    I won’t even try to outline the grey market because my brain is still trying to recover from a nervous breakdown after absorbing it all at a seminar about international DVD retail years ago. :D

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  58. Suze
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 14:29:52

    ~They also have a stupid system of only selling you one book at a time.~

    THIS! Stupid, stupid, stupid. Not just because it inconveniences me, but it loses them sales, as well. Because I find buying, downloading, importing into Calibre, then loading the e-reader, then testing to make sure it’s readable (pant, pant) a bit of a pita, I don’t buy books often, but when I do, I buy in bulk. In between buys, I browse, and add books to the cart as I go. If I can’t load a cart or a wishlist, which I can then bulk purchase, I forget about the book by the time I’m ready to buy, and that’s a lost sale.

    ~I now simply refuse to jump through hoops to get a book I want. If it's not available to me, then it's no skin off my nose as there are other books I can buy instead.~

    THIS, too. I don’t buy paper. If it’s not available in a format I want, in Canada, at a reasonable price, it’s a lost sale. There are plenty of good books out there that ARE available, etc., and I’ve found a whole bunch of new-to-me authors I’d never have found if I hadn’t been forced to go looking.

    To be honest, as I get older, there are fewer and fewer authors who I GOTTA HAVE NOW! And almost none of them are Romance, anymore.

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  59. Author On Vacation
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 14:30:34

    @GrowlyCub:

    @Author On Vacation:

    I knew it wouldn't be long before the ‘entitlement' bullshit would rear its ugly head.

    So, I, reader, whom you, author, expect to fork over *my* money, I'm evincing entitlement when I say I want to buy your book legally?

    But you telling me it's my responsibility to fight to get you a better publishing contract, that's not entitlement?

    Yeah, right.

    I would not presume to tell you what to do. I can only say what I do when I want a book.

    I can tell you and many other readers feel frustration about the bizarre inequality meted out by publishers as far as providing your desired product (e-format) in a specific region. You are perfectly in the right to feel that way, and you are perfectly in the right to request that the merchants you deal with provide your desired product or to refrain from offering them your business.

    Although I empathize to some degree … in my mind, the book (reading experience) matters more to me than the format. I think that is the “disconnect” I often experience in discussions on this blog. I care about the work, I care about the reading experience, more than I care about the format. Other participants, while they want the book, are very specific as to format and unwilling to compromise on that point.

    That’s only my opinion, I’m not saying you have to feel that way, too.

    I entertain no expectations as to how or where you spend your money, Growly Cub. That’s none of my business.

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  60. Suze
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 14:36:02

    @Jane: I’m going to take a wild guess here, and suggest that it’s again taxes. When you get a physical object shipped to you from another country, it has to go through customs and get taxed as appropriate.

    Although I’m violently against applying GST to books.

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  61. Author On Vacation
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 14:47:27

    @Suze:

    But, Suze, if it were taxes, do you not think these issues could be safely negotiated and resolved with little fuss? I mean, my ebooks are taxed here in the U.S. (which I consider pathetic, BTW, but oh well.) How much more difficult is it to tax an on line purchase from Canada, Mexico, Australia, or Japan?

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  62. J
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 14:52:15

    @Author On Vacation:
    For me as a reader part of my enjoyment is reading in my desired format. Which is eBook format. I like being able to increase the size of the words on the page I like not having a load in my bag etc. When will authors and publishers wake up and smell the coffee.
    Authors need to negotiate the right contract, its not up to readers to ensure your book is satisfying market demand. As BP said its sink or swim time.

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  63. ShellBell
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 15:06:00

    Can someone in NZ purchase a self published work any easier?
    Yes, very easily.

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  64. Jane
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 15:12:23

    @Author On Vacation Actually you did imply that readers who want a legitimate path to purchase are of the “entitlement mindset”. I’m not sure how encouraging authors to give readers a way to ensure that some amount of money finds it way back to the author is part of the “entitlement mindset.”

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  65. Author On Vacation
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 15:17:16

    @J:

    @Author On Vacation:
    For me as a reader part of my enjoyment is reading in my desired format. Which is eBook format. I like being able to increase the size of the words on the page I like not having a load in my bag etc. When will authors and publishers wake up and smell the coffee.

    Authors need to negotiate the right contract, its not up to readers to ensure your book is satisfying market demand. As BP said its sink or swim time.

    Respectfully, the title of this blog is “How Do We Solve a Problem Like Geographic Restrictions?” not “Why Don’t Authors negotiate Publishing Contracts to Satisfy Readers?”

    I interpreted “We” as being the reading community, the audience and target clientele of publishers.

    It seems to me some bloggers have offered different opinions and ideas, ranging from refusal to purchase the book in any format save the preferred (e-format) to contacting publishers and requesting the desired books in the desired format. I’ve suggested worrying less about the format and more about acquiring the books one most wants. All of those things are things any interested reader can do.

    I’m not sure how criticizing authors and demanding authors rework their contracts contributes to any realistic solution in which “we” (readers) can actively participate.

    Quite frankly, it’s never occurred to me to blame an author for his/her work not being available to me in e-formate. I want an e-version of Shirley Jackson’s “The Haunting of Hill House.” It’s unavailable. Her fault? How can it be, she’s deceased? Likewise for Daphne duMaurier’s “Rebecca.” Obviously someone somewhere holds publishing rights to these books but for whatever reason they’re not epublished. Herbert’s “Dune” has finally been made available for an outrageous price.

    Sometimes, for whatever reason, what a consumer wants just isn’t available. It happens.

    I’d love ebooks for the Harry Potter series. Rowling says no. Oh well.

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  66. Holly
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 15:21:44

    I’m Canadian and I’ve been researching e-readers for a couple of weeks now, after visiting family for Thanksgiving and listening to relatives rave about their Kindle. I think the best fit for me is going to be the Kobo, because there’s so many more books available on it that I would buy. I found the Kindle site to be confusing because it would show books and then tell me I couldn’t purchase them in Canada, and it was unclear to me if prices are in US dollars (and seeing as my credit card charges me for conversion of foreign currency, that’s something I’d like to avoid). I’m still unclear on a few things, like if I can transfer the Adobe ePub books I have on my computer already to the Kobo and if I can read books from the library on it.

    Has anyone noticed that some romance novels haven’t made it into Canadian stores yet but are available as e-books? The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook stands out for me, it was released on October 5th, it’s STILL not in any Chapters stores, at least in Toronto. A couple of weeks after it’s release it was listed as available to order from their website, and Amazon.ca then stated it could be ordered from their site as well. Now Lisa Kleypas’ newest is also not in stores. Chapters blamed the publisher for the Meljean Brook novel not being in stores, but why’s the publisher holding back on it? I don’t understand if this is related to rights as well or if it’s perhaps related to Chapters push for the Kobo. Has anyone else noticed this with books in Canada? Hopefully it’s just with a few books, and isn’t going to become a regular problem here.

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  67. Suze
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 15:23:43

    @Author On Vacation:

    It says right in the original comment from BoB that:

    The publisher territory restrictions prevent users from purchasing titles from retailers who are not in their same country. They are designed to ensure that ebook purchases in countries where these are taxed cannot avoid paying taxes by shopping abroad.

    So I have to buy certain books from Kobo or Sony (who have Canadian retailers but are a pain to shop from imo), and others I can get from BoB or AllRomanceebooks, who are much easier to buy from, and generally have bigger selections.

    I really don’t understand why that is, unless the publishers are specifying which books get taxed, which makes zero sense to me.

    I think it might take a world summit, like the Kyoto accords (that most countries didn’t even try to live up to), to arrive at some sort of global digital marketplace.

    Given that I think that the various free trade agreements did more harm than good (and don’t ask me to defend that position, because I haven’t really thought it through, it’s kind of knee-jerk), I don’t know that I’m in favour of formalizing free e-trade.

    I just know that I’m currently being inconvenienced, and it’s causing me to not buy books, which hurts authors and publishers. It really doesn’t hurt me, though.

    Regarding this:

    I care about the work, I care about the reading experience, more than I care about the format. Other participants, while they want the book, are very specific as to format and unwilling to compromise on that point.

    I get that, and I also am interested in the reading experience. I wish I had the luxury of being able to buy and keep paper books, but I don’t. Until I’m in a position where I have the space to store physical books, and don’t have to move them on a regular basis, I’m not buying them.

    It’s not a philosophical stance or a political statement, it’s a matter of physical and economical practicality. I’m boarding (a bedroom in someone else’s house, sharing the kitchen and bathroom), in a town where housing prices and rents are astronomical. Until I relocate and own my own home, or can find cheap storage, or find some portal into extradimensional space, no more paper books for me. They’re becoming a fire hazard.

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  68. Jane
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 15:28:49

    @Holly: Kobo will definitely read your previously published epubs so long as you didn’t buy them from Barnes and Noble. You can also use library with the Kobo. I think the Kobo + wifi is a great little device.

    I can’t answer the other question.

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  69. Author On Vacation
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 15:33:11

    @Jane:

    @Author On Vacation Actually you did imply that readers who want a legitimate path to purchase are of the “entitlement mindset”. I'm not sure how encouraging authors to give readers a way to ensure that some amount of money finds it way back to the author is part of the “entitlement mindset.”

    I stated “I realize we live in an age of instant gratification and entittlement mindset, but at the end of the day, either I want a book or I don't. If I want it, I'll get it if I can. If I want it and I can't get it, I'll find something else to read … ”

    For the record, I think it would be a very good idea for interested readers to contact AUTHORS as well as PUBLISHERS concerning their specific needs. Authors could then forward this information to their respective publishers. Perhaps authors whoses careers are advanced to a point they can make specifications concerning where and how their published works are marketed would take greater notice if they received slews of email or real mail complaining their works aren’t available in particular countries.

    Again, I don’t presume to speak for publishers or authors. It’s just a suggestion. The only way I’ve ever found I might get something I want is to ask for it. I certainly won’t get something if I never ask for it.

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  70. Jane
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 15:37:39

    @Author On Vacation What entitlement mindset is being displayed here? Perhaps you could clarify that.

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  71. Mary G
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 15:55:03

    Christine M
    Thanks for the feedback on the Sony. The guy at Future Shop told me it wasn’t backlit (days are shorter & I want to read on the car – no I’m not driving) but I’ll have to think about that one.

    Holly
    I find that some Chapters stores get new releases faster than others. The store in Ajax seems to receive them first & in greater quantities than the other stores in my fave list.

    Still another untechnical dumb question.
    If the taxes & all that bull don’t affect my print purchases at Amazon and B & N, why does it complicate epurchases?

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  72. Author On Vacation
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 16:01:04

    @Jane:

    @Author On Vacation What entitlement mindset is being displayed here? Perhaps you could clarify that.

    I’m sorry, I thought I clarified I was not specifically accusing DA or its contributors of entitlement mindset. I stated we live in an era of instant gratification and entitlement mindset, I meant we are all, more or less, long accustomed to our desired products (books) being made available to us conveniently and for a reasonable price. Electronic evolution and at least some reluctance on traditional publishing AND bookstores to embrace this evolution has clearly impacted status quo.

    We now have readers, plainfly baffled and offended, saying, “I want to buy Anytitle Book in e-format, why won’t you sell me one?” There is an attitude of expectation that this should not be a problem in any way and that the industry and its merchants are failing the consumer. Not meeting the consumer’s expectations.

    What should be done?

    If I dine at a fine restaurant and my salad is unpalatable, do I complain to appropriate management or do I complain to the farmer who grew the lettuce? Do I blame the farmer and demand he require the restaurant serve his lettuces in a different fashion?

    Without doubt, customer service has really plummeted in many industries these past years. Dissatisfied customers have every right to feel dissatisfied and to complain. I for one recommend constructive complaint directed toward the entity most capable of fulfilling my desires.

    This is a dysfunctional situation. The industry lacks awareness (or does not care) that it isn’t properly servicing customers.

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  73. ShellBell
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 16:18:50

    Since I got into eBooks as my main format for reading I have bought over 1500 eBooks in 3-4 years. I simply would not have been able to purchase this many books if they weren’t eBooks. I just don’t have the space for that many on my bookcase and the cost would have been too much. In addition to that some of my early purchases were not available in print format . My early eBook purchases included Lora Leigh and Maya Banks, who started off as eBook only authors but who have gone on to bigger and better things. Ironic really, because now that they have I can no longer support them because their eBooks are no longer available for me to purchase. I also love reading Christine Feehan, and have been buying all of her books since very early on in her Carpathian series. I even repurchased all of her books as they became available as eBooks and now, after 10 years of reading her I won’t be able to buy her next releases in my desired format. Kobo have a grand total of 8 Christine Feehan eBooks in their NZ site, all of them old releases. I no longer have the option of searching through 8 or 9 online stores just to find a book that is actually available for me to purchase and I no longer have the inclination to do so. If an author/publisher won’t release the books in the format that I want and make it available to me in the region I live in then I can’t buy it and if my library doesn’t have it then I can’t read it so I expect I’ll be saying goodbye to more authors soon. Thank goodness for Samhain Publishing, Aspen Mountain Press, Carina Press, Harlequin etc as I expect I’ll be finding some new favourite authors to read.

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  74. Allison Brennan
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 16:24:34

    @jane

    My comments were meant to support Shiloh because I felt that some of the comments responding to her arguments were far more negative and didn’t inspire a positive debate on the very important issue of digital rights.

    Meaning, I felt that Shiloh was respectful in her argument where she disagreed with someone’s opinion, but some of the comments disagreeing with her were rather harsh. Maybe I was taking them too personally. Maybe I should get a thicker skin. And you’re right, it doesn’t matter that I like and respect Shiloh–I would defend anyone if I saw that they were being unfairly attacked, or felt that they were.

    And it’s true that I’ve seen time and again on this site that when authors speak up against piracy or try to explain our point on an issue–such as how we look at the rights we’re negotiating with our publisher–that we are shot down. Maybe you don’t see that, and that’s fine. We have different methods of debate.

    re: contracts. Yes, I completely agree with you that authors control their negotiations, nor do I expect readers to get involved in the negotiation process, but most of us don’t have the clout to make demands across the board. Publishers hold a lot of cards. I could choose to walk over world digital rights–but then the books wouldn’t be published at all in any format. The major publishers–and probably most of the smaller houses, too–are not giving in on these rights with most authors. I do think that readers who want books available digitally in English in every country in the world need to make their demand known, because the higher the demand the more publishers will be willing to spend the money to expand the digital market.

    @maili

    Yes, this entire issue is a contract issue. I think most of us, with our agents, are fighting to change clauses in contracts each time we negotiate a new contract. We win some issues and lose some issues. Most of us, as others have pointed out, are not in a position like Diana G. where we have the clout to affect major changes. I really am not in a position to walk and become my own publisher and distributor. I want to write. That’s it. I don’t want to be a publisher or hire an outside editor or cover designer or e-book formatting expert or all of the above.

    I believe that the system is changing. It’s not happening as fast as people would like, but it’s changing.

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  75. Christine M.
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 16:28:13

    @Mary G: None of the current e0ink devices are, AFAIK. Solution can be easy enough though, just clip on a small reading light. Especially with the new, glareless, Sony screen.

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  76. Christine M.
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 16:31:34

    @Mary G:

    Didn’t see your last comment before I sent my first reply but here’s something I noticed of late on amazon.com. When I place an order on the US site, they now charge me customs fee, should I have to pay any taxes when my books and DVDs cross the border (most recent example, they charges me an extra US$8 for ordering The Pacific in case I would have to pay tax. And with the shipping, it’s still cheaper than buying the series on amazon.ca, especially with the Canadian and US dollars having the same value right now).

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  77. ShellBell
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 16:36:42

    I do think that readers who want books available digitally in English in every country in the world need to make their demand known, because the higher the demand the more publishers will be willing to spend the money to expand the digital market.
    .
    I try to let authors know that I haven’t been able to purchase their eBooks, but the simple fact is New Zealand is a very small market compared to others and I doubt my not been able to purchase their eBook from New Zealand will make any difference to them or their publishers.

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  78. Carolyn Jewel
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 16:37:41

    This is an interesting discussion. I think there’s been some conflating of issues. Foreign Rights are typically translation rights, as I understand it from my book contracts. So, not books in English sold in Thailand (for example) but books originally in English translated into another language. As other authors have pointed out, some authors end up with the choice of no book contract or a book contract with World rights. Authors like Diana Gabaldon or Allison Brennan are in a much stronger position for retaining these rights.

    Foreign Rights are not related to geographical restrictions on digital books produced by US publishers in their original language.

    GR strikes me as both anti-reader AND anti-author and even anti-publisher (ironic as that seems). It’s abundantly clear to me that sales are being lost because of these restrictions. I can’t see how that benefits anyone. In this thread alone, there are many many comments from non-US readers who state plainly they cannot buy books they want because of GR. As an author, that is just plain frustrating.

    However, I thought this absurd result was related to WIPO related treaties (WIPO=World Intellectual Property Organization). I can’t easily find any Google results to confirm that so maybe that’s just wrong.

    Whatever the reason, I have to agree that authors have little to no control over geographical restrictions imposed on books they sell to traditional print publishers. We can try (we authors, I mean) to negotiate against this, but wow, when my choice is sale vs. no sale, I confess, I cave in.

    As a reader, I have myself been frustrated by GR. There are books available only in the UK, for example, that I would like to read as an eBook and I can’t. To me, the publisher is flat out saying “I don’t want your money.” How is that not a WTF result? Especially when at the very same time said publishers are bemoaning a decline in sales?

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  79. Author On Vacation
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 16:43:46

    Jane,

    could you draft a form letter to be directed to all the various major publishing house concerning this problem, maybe post it here at DA for the different participants to copy and send to the biggest offenders in this situation?

    NOTE: I am not suggesting you draft in the capacity of an attorney or anything, but perhaps if all participants utilized a specific form with clear language defining the problem and the desired solution, it might better get the industry’s attention?

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  80. Jane
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 16:48:15

    @Allison Brennan Really, what comments were negative toward Shiloh? Why don’t you point those out so as we can ascertain what is deemed uncivil debate in your opinion. I’m inferring that “shooting down” is somehow pejorative and am trying to see where you think the comments turn from debate to incivility.

    I do think you’ve clarified the issue well for us by pointing out that it is really an author / publisher situation that involves readers very little. It is ironic that you bring up the issue of piracy as many authors ask bloggers and readers to be proactive on the issue of piracy, as if readers have some control over that but when readers ask authors to reflect as to the harm that geo restrictions are doing to overall sales, the readers are told to be proactive about that as well. It’s amazing how much power authors perceive readers have despite the readers having no control over the contract or enforcement of copyright law.

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  81. Jane
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 16:57:02

    @Author On Vacation: How would that help. This is clearly an issue between author and publisher.

    The best advice I can give a reader is to buy what is available and forget about the authors and publishers who don’t want to sell to you.

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  82. Author On Vacation
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 17:00:18

    @Author On Vacation: How would that help. This is clearly an issue between author and publisher.

    OK

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  83. Suze
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 17:00:56

    To me, the publisher is flat out saying “I don't want your money.” How is that not a WTF result? Especially when at the very same time said publishers are bemoaning a decline in sales?

    WORD!

    If I had the time and computer savvy, I’d set up a lostebooksale.com site where people could submit each book they didn’t buy, and why. After the first three or four hundred stories about “I didn’t buy Book X because it’s not available in my country, so I got a pirate copy”, maybe somebody in publisher with the drive, imagination, and ability could prod the industry into action.

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  84. Jane
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 17:08:35

    @Author On Vacation I guess given Allison Brennan’s comments how there is a method for readers to have a voice here? Particularly when authors themselves feel powerless?

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  85. Jane
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 17:13:55

    @Suze That is actually a brilliant idea. I do have the computer savvy to set this up. I would think it would be self sufficient. I think.

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  86. Maili
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 17:15:50

    @Author On Vacation: I stated we live in an era of instant gratification and entitlement mindset, I meant we are all, more or less, long accustomed to our desired products (books) being made available to us conveniently and for a reasonable price.

    This is true. Not necessarily restricted to books and readers. It also applies to viewers and films, readers and comics, and listeners and music/audio books. Not only this, but also products of all kinds.

    While at a nine-days-long conference, a friend of mine spotted a dress she liked on a stranger, who said she bought it from a certain shop. The friend, through her iPhone, went online to buy it. It was delivered to her hotel within forty-eight hours. My jaw was on the floor and still is.

    Although it was already realised years ago that the internet shopping has truly changed the concept of ‘supply and demand’, it’s rather puzzling some major companies are still resisting this change. The tax issue and such seem a bit of an iffy excuse. They have had about ten years to be prepared for it.

    @Allison Brennan: Thank you. :)

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  87. Author On Vacation
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 17:16:48

    @Allison Brennan:

    I do think that readers who want books available digitally in English in every country in the world need to make their demand known, because the higher the demand the more publishers will be willing to spend the money to expand the digital market.

    I can’t help thinking the publishing industry may not be entirely aware of just how many customers they are losing and/or alienating. Smart businesses don’t throw away money.

    I think ANY type of legal, peaceful, and constructive demonstration of reader dissatisfaction with the present arrangement is helpful.

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  88. Has
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 17:18:19

    The thing about instant gratification for international customers – well isn’t that a good thing for authors/publishers and readers? They would get an instant sale, with the potential of sales and popularity of a book or an author?

    Restricting sales is one way to stunt that and one of the main reasons I love ebooks is instant gratification of buying a book and downloading onto my reader in under a minute! The majority of authors I read are mainly published in the US, and most of them don’t have contracts outside the US. But its very frustrating and annoying for me as a customer who is unable to buy ebooks from authors who I would like to try out.
    I will only buy print books of authors if I am unable to get them in e-format who I must have and I can count them in one hand. But I wont buy the print books of books from authors if I cant get them in ebook format and that for me is a way to stunt their sales and potential of them actually selling international rights because their books aren’t available.

    Geo rights has to be looked into because as more people outside the US buy ereaders and find they aren’t able to buy books due to this will just increase piracy and lost sales. The publishers are making the same mistakes as the music industry – publishing cannot afford to make the same mistakes as them.

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  89. Maili
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 17:20:22

    @Suze: Fantastic idea. Even though I’m sure it may be demoralising for some authors. I think in a long run, it’d help them as it could force their publishers to do something about it, which could mean more sales for authors.

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  90. Has
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 17:23:27

    @Jane:

    Amazon has a button on their UK site and I presume on their US site for geo restricted books – How about concentrating a day of pressing the button to request titles – to make that point to publishers as well?

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  91. Shiloh Walker
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 17:30:03

    Jane, I’d call it more an author concern, one that concerns authors & readers. And while I could be wrong, I suspect many people, including you, think authors have more power than we do. To bring a new, untried clause into contract negotiations would require a certain amount of power and I suspect that power isn’t the power many authors will have. IMO, it would take a very powerful voice to bring it around. Plus, pubs need to hear the demand- from readers. Not booksellers, not authors but the consumers, because nobody else can fully express that frustration as well as the readers can.

    And even then, I don’t know what will happen. But authors alone don’t have that control. Especially for something that would be new & untried. We can ask for this, the moon & an advertising budget…but we don’t get it.

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  92. Jane
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 17:30:23

    @Has There are so few books that are not available to the USa and it is book specific. Not sure what message we would send. It’s too bad that Amazon doesn’t have something specifically for geo restriction issues because as a global company, it is in their best interests to sell the broadest audience as possible.

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  93. Suze
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 17:33:23

    @Jane: Gosh, thanks! I’m pretty sure I could fab it up in Sharepoint at work, but I suspect they’d frown on that. I have a Mac at home, and apparently there’s no such thing as Sharepoint for Mac.

    I also think it would be self-sustaining. Some kind of e-form people could fill in themselves, and a database would just grow.

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  94. Jane
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 17:34:20

    @Shiloh Walker Actually, I know of an author, a lowly debut author with a modest advance who had global distribution put in her contract so it can be done. I’m wondering how many of you have actually been tried and “shot down” if I can borrow Brennan’s favorite phrase. I think that authors can make that frustration known to the publishers far better than the reader. The reader doesn’t even know who to contact. There are no general CS forums for readers on publisher message boards. Sometimes there is a phone number but who do you ask for? Publishers don’t have a customer relations department. They don’t have a direct relationship with readers. If the digital evolution has taught us readers anything it is that publishers don’t perceive readers as their customers anyway. Booksellers and retailers are the publishers customer.

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  95. GrowlyCub
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 17:35:13

    @Shiloh Walker:

    “pubs need to hear the demand- from readers. Not booksellers, not authors but the consumers”

    That argument unfortunately overlooks the fact that publishers do not consider readers their customers, but booksellers and distribution houses.

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  96. Jane
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 17:40:57

    @Suze okay, I’ve bought the domain name. The question is now what software to use to power this.

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  97. Suze
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 17:41:07

    @Shiloh Walker:

    Plus, pubs need to hear the demand- from readers.

    I get the sense from various posts over the years that publishers don’t actually see readers as their customer base. I’m open to being wrong about that, but I’ve read a lot of posts and ensuing comments about publishers ignoring or dissing readers (at conferences), because their customers are booksellers.

    Even independent booksellers seem to get shafted by that policy, because publishers only pay attention to Amazon and Walmart (you know, judging from what I’ve read on the internet).

    Not that I’m disagreeing with you, I just don’t see publishers looking for reader feedback (except Harlequin). In fact, when I wanted to protest being unable to buy Patricia Briggs’ Silver Borne, I couldn’t find a way to do it. Penguin’s websites (ANY of them) didn’t have any “contact us” information. I could have written a snail-mail letter, I suppose, but instead I just read a different book.

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  98. Suze
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 17:44:42

    @Jane: Holy crap, you’re fast!

    And apparently I’m not alone in my view of publisher relations.

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  99. Estara
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 18:03:56

    @Moriah Jovan: *waves back* Indeed.

    Well, I buy a lot more impulse buys from publishers and sites that sell to me without me jumping through hoops.
    A very few authors I buy in hardback (which is no problem via Amazon.de) to support their initial sales number.

    And I still have one loop hole that I use to get most of the ebooks I want legally – I don’t know how long it will last, though – I’m one of those readers whose avenues are being closed down, for example WHSmith and Waterstones.

    Smashwords has some great backlist books out there, C.J. Cherryh is releasing old and new books in e, Samhain regularly has books for my taste as does Drollerie Press, various author collectives are releasing new and old boks, my favourite of these being the Book View Cafe.

    There are places to spend money and support authors, even if a specific book by the big publishers may not be something a foreign reader can purchase.

    How about posting a series on publishers and collectives and authors (who do sell their backlist to every customer) on Dear Author? Or at least one huge collective post of links? Which can be pointed to as a reference for nonUS-people looking for stuff to read?

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  100. helen
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 18:04:03

    @Suze:
    I’ve contacted Penguin before (About Cate Tiernan’s series which has 10 of the 12 available electronically but not the other 2!) I didn’t get an answer I liked but they are willing to speak to customers. The email I used was online@us.penguingroup.com
    On a different point, further up the discussion someone mentioned that publishers are not available to the reading public. That is simply not true. At one point or another I have contacted almost all of the larger publishers and received responses. Most of the time I haven’t been happy with the responses but I do get them!

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  101. Jane
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 18:06:48

    @Estara That is a great idea and I have been wanting to do that but time has prevented me from seeking out the information. I think next Sunday can be about the collective and everyone can contribute links and then I can link to it in the “easy resources” section.

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  102. toni mcgee causey
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 18:07:08

    Jane, you said,

    “As for authors and rights, I think it clearly falls into the author to exploit her rights to the best of her ability.”

    And then:

    “Actually, I know of an author, a lowly debut author with a modest advance who had global distribution put in her contract so it can be done. I'm wondering how many of you have actually been tried and “shot down” if I can borrow Brennan's favorite phrase.”

    I can’t speak for everyone else, but you and I had this conversation a long time ago when Bobbie Faye came out and it wasn’t yet available in digital format. I *desperately* wanted it in digital format, but I did not hold those rights. Fwiw, I tried… hard… to get them. I managed to hold onto film rights, but e-book rights were absolutely not an option with St. Martin’s Press, and we hit a point where it was either take the contract without getting to keep the e-rights, or lose the contract altogether. We tried to put in clauses that would give us a bit more control, and that was not happening. (I can’t blame SMP–that was their standard policy and they did not know yet at the time–5 years ago when that first sale happened–just what ebooks were going to become.)

    I think your point about the geographical issues is a valid point–it really is an issue. I disagree that it’s something the author can actually do something about, and here’s why: authors have no means to prove the numbers of customers that could be lost, that will *eventually* be lost, if the books are not available. At the time of the contract, those customers don’t exist, and there’s no way for an author to say, “But they WILL, trust me!” This goes for every issue dealing with sales of ebooks. When, and ONLY when, publishers start hearing directly from their customers–READERS–will they start giving weight to an author’s opinion.

    Think about it: every author out there would love to believe that her book was going to be the next big thing. Everyone would love to believe that there was going to be a demand for it internationally. That’s just not true, not across the board, and publishers know this, and will ignore as “wishful thinking” any author who tries to make that case. In other words, not taken seriously, deemed to be a newbie author who just doesn’t know the ropes.

    That publishing *is* changing rapidly is a fact, and that publishers are not moving fast enough to get ahead of the trend is also a fact. (I blogged vehemently for more digital rights more than a year-and-a-half ago over on Murderati.com, only to have a couple of publishers tell me privately it was just “never going to happen.”) However, if everyone on this site really wants changes, then turn your demands toward the people who can effect them: the publishers. You’re the customers. *Tell them* what you want, and that you want it. Believe me, if a few thousand of you started writing directly to them, they would sit up and pay attention, because you’re the ones spending the money.

    Us? The authors? If we try to tell them we want them to do more, they’re going to look at us with about the same level of belief as parents look at kids who ask for more allowance while promising to “do good things” with it. Why on earth would they believe we’d know what to do? or that there was a demand?

    I like that you’re trying to affect change here. I would love to see that aim turned toward the people who have the actual choice to make those changes.

    As for the debut author who was able to get that clause, she might be benefitting from selling to a smaller publisher who is able or willing to be more aggressive, or maybe she’s benefitting from the current climate, or maybe she had proof, via a journal or fanfic following or any number of things that demonstrated that she would have a foreign English language market. It’s just not the norm, though some of us really have tried.

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  103. Jane
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 18:18:07

    @toni mcgee causey To me, you are talking about something different. I am not saying authors should try to reserve their digital rights and exploit them differently. In fact, the statement you quoted is my nod to the fact that as business people, authors do need to exploit their rights in the most profitable way possible. Brennan has stated those rights are best exploited by sticking with her publisher no matter what they choose to do with them.

    What you seem to be talking about is getting your rights back. I’m talking about ceding to the publishers global digital distribution rights.

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  104. Robin
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 18:26:46

    To me, this is not about “blaming” authors — it’s about determining what the nature of the problem is and who has the incentive, power, benefit, and responsibility for a solution.

    I will admit right up front that I am frustrated as hell with the “readers have the power, you need to X” argument. As a reader, I have accepted (with a smirk, though) that publishers do not see me as a “customer” and that my opinion on anything is neither solicited nor heard. Hasn’t (not) agency pricing solidified that truth?

    Still, even if I accept the assertion that authors do not have the power to change this, I would still suggest that the responsibility likes on the side of the author, agent, and publisher.

    Neither rights nor profits flow to the reader. Our “benefit” is being able to read a book, for which we’ve paid, and that is the extent of our contract with the author and the publisher. And with digital, we are more often treated as licensees than purchasers of a product, which, I have to be honest, makes me even less inclined to act on behalf of an author’s distribution rights.

    Might that deprive me of the benefit of purchasing or reading a particular digital book? Maybe. But readers are adaptive creatures, and the marketplace is rife with options. I used to think, for example, that I could not get by without a new Judith Ivory book — but I have since been proven wrong.

    This does not mean readers aren’t missing great books because of GRs, and it doesn’t mean it’s fair, and maybe authors aren’t capable of solving the problem. But who owns the rights? Who gains the profits? Who is in charge of the rights (and, when piracy discussions arise, we hear in no uncertain terms that the author is master of her work and should be the only one who has the power to make decisions as to her rights related to that work)? Authors may not have the power as individuals, but what about the RWA or the Author’s Guild? Why are they not advocating on behalf of authors? What about agents, who are the sales advocates for their clients and who profit directly from every sale/license of rights?

    Whatever the reader can or might even choose to do should not, IMO, be perceived as an obligation. I hope to heck that the situation changes rapidly, but as long as my benefit (perceived or real) is the reading of a certain book in digital format, I’m not going to feel that it’s my responsibility to do anything but, perhaps, buy that book in paper format. Or buy another book in digital.

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  105. Carol
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 18:40:20

    I live in Australia and have been dithering for a year or two about buying an ereader. The geo restrictions have been the only reason why I have not jumped into the ereading pool. I am a reader only, not an author nor someone who knows much about how the world of publishing works so this is all very confusing to me I have to admit. For me its not so much the “instant gratification” of ebooks its more of a space saving idea and the convenience of carrying my library with me. I want to support the authors I read, I want them to keep writing. Reading is one of life’s joys(to me anyway)and finding an author whose writing you really can connect with is a true pleasure.
    This is my question, what as a reader can I do? Sure, I want change as I’m sure most people do but how do I go about becoming a voice in that change. There seems to be some confusion as to who is responsible and who we approach. Is it authors, agents, publishers or is it governments(taxes ect) I have no clue.
    I do have trouble getting my head around the fact that paper books are very easily available to me but ebooks not so much.
    Also, someone mentioned in the above comments something about only being able to purchase one ebook at a time. Is that correct. If so then that does not work for me at all(I always buy a few books at a time).
    Thank you Jane for posting about a subject that has been of great interest to me for a while now and thank you to all the other commentators, I am learning more and more which will certainly make for more informed decisions in the future.

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  106. Author On Vacation
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 18:48:04

    So, am I to take it an actual answer to “How Do We Solve a Problem Like Geographic Restriction?” is not being sought and this thread is actually intended to grief about how authors and publishers don’t “do right” by readers?

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  107. toni mcgee causey
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 18:56:29

    Jane, actually, no, I am talking about trying to have the rights myself when the book was first sold. We tried for that, and then tried to have some say-so in how the ebooks would be done, and that was not going to happen if I wanted to sell the books. I am thrilled that SMP finally put up all three Bobbie Faye books for various formats, but it had nothing to do with me asking for it, because I had been asking for it from day one.

    Suze said:

    In fact, when I wanted to protest being unable to buy Patricia Briggs' Silver Borne, I couldn't find a way to do it. Penguin's websites (ANY of them) didn't have any “contact us” information. I could have written a snail-mail letter, I suppose, but instead I just read a different book.

    You know, that really is a problem, but I think it’s one that’s going to be changing sooner rather than later, especially with the demise of really big booksellers. You and others who’ve posted here) are correct in that the publishers were more focused on the booksellers as being their main customers, but with so many changes in ebooks in just the last 24 months, the attitude is shifting.

    If changes are going to be made, and they need to be, I think it’s going to take a concerted joint effort between readers and the authors they love. The publishers are, in a sense, the author’s employers. I cannot go to my employer and say, “Look, there’s this format you aren’t really doing and I want you to do it for me, and while you’re at it, I want you to pay me for the rights to do it, even though you (a) don’t believe in it yet and (b) haven’t seen that my books will sell well enough to warrant going to the trouble.” But–and here’s the thing–when enough readers kept asking me when my books were going to be out in ebook formats, I forwarded those fan letters, and SMP then put them out in ebook format. I don’t think that’s coincidental. As an author, I would be happy to prove to my publisher that there’s a demand from readers. Happy, thrilled, jumping for joy. But first, I have to know about it and second, if the letters are cordial, I can forward them.

    It’s readers who give the author the power, not the publishers. We don’t have any until you, the readers, create a demand for our work. It’s just that simple. Help me show a demand, help any of your favorite authors show that there’s a demand, and you’re handing her the leverage she needs to try to affect change. Without that? It’s just her say so, and the publishers do not have enough statistics to trust an author’s opinion, yet, on how ebooks should be priced or where they should be sold.

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  108. Robin
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 19:10:43

    @Author On Vacation: You are certainly free to read this thread any way you like. But I have seen mentioned multiple times here that the reader is the answer to this problem. It is my assertion that such is not the case.

    As a reader, all I can do is ask: what are your agents advising you? What are they doing to help change the situation (and do they want it changed)? Are you contacting or forming advocacy groups? Is this something that authors universally want changed? Are any authors who do have the pull to more easily negotiate certain rights in their contracts who are taking up on behalf of those who do not?

    I’m always surprised by how little group advocacy there seems to be among authors, while other writers, like television writers, for example, have active unions. The National Writers Union represents independent contractors, for example, but I have no idea how they operate or if they are effective lobbyists for their members.

    IMO authors don’t owe readers advocacy on this issue, nor do they owe readers books universally available. But if authors do want their world digital rights exploited to greatest advantage, and they believe that means global availability of books, then I think the solution is well beyond ‘readers need to complain to publishers.’ If most publishers listened regularly to readers, I suspect the publishing landscape as a whole would look substantially different.

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  109. Jane
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 19:21:45

    @toni mcgee causey Yes, I guess I am not talking about reserving digital rights because I see how futile that is. I have seen public statements that ebook rights are not separable from digital rights. I have to tell you that I bought your print book after some time but I never ended up reading it. I came across it the other day in a basket of unread books and tossed it out. I never bought books 2 and 3 because I never read book 1. And sadly, I forgot about your books and it never occurred to me to look for them again in the bookstore. I, as a reader, had moved on. I think this happens to a lot of readers.

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  110. toni mcgee causey
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 19:26:53

    Robin, unfortunately, the big writer advocacy groups would have to have some sort of statistics to demonstrate (a) need and (b) best avenue of response in order to convince its membership (the authors) to all agree on any one particular plan of action. Right now, the landscape is changing so rapidly, there aren’t really any stats to be had.

    (The WGAw and WGAe have routinely effed up negotiations and given away rights that they should have never given away, and talked their memberships into boneheaded deals that they then spent years regretting. Two that come into mind are (1) giving away copyright–they gave it to the studios which hired the writers, which means the writers can be fired at any given time after the sale and the studios then can do whatever they want with the material and (b) they gave away DVD rights to TV series at one point… and the studios all knew that they were going to start releasing TV series in boxed sets. The writers never dreamed that was going to be done, and so made almost no money on those rights for years until that came back up for negotiation. They had to go on strike this last time to try to get a mere four cents per episode for any episode which was aired on the internet, and that cost the industry millions of dollars as the studios held out for almost five months. While a great concept, I fear writer advocacy groups are not going to move fast enough to make these changes.)

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  111. j.
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 19:26:56

    I admit (it’s getting late and i need to get going to a party…) I stopped really reading around 30 or so comments in, so it’s possible that this has already been said but…

    If the AUTHORS hold all but a few digital rights (say, everything but the US, UK, and Canada) why, in the name of all that’s sane and simple don’t they just list the books at amazon, B&n, ebooks.com, stc themselves? Amazon, at the very least, makes it the simplest thing in the world. Your average make-money-online noob can figure it out, why can’t writers?

    The coding can be added to an authors website to limit sales to author-owned locations, and most decent hosting comes with some kind of shopping cart. Of course, that requires some degree of business thinking, which is something most writers seem to purposefully avoid developing.

    Not anti-author, here, solidly pro-author. Just don’t get why this is such a crazy idea that no-one seems to do it…

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  112. Jane
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 19:28:50

    @helen Maybe authors could provide us a list of email or phone contacts that we could use to notify publishers of our unhappiness regarding territorial issues.

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  113. Kaetrin
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 19:30:15

    Question for the authors – if (hypothetically *cough*) a reader were to sign up to say, Books on Board and state she lived in the US (when she doesn’t) and provided an address etc to buy a book that had GR for her country and then bought your book, would that offend/bother you?

    I’m curious because on the one hand, it is outside the terms of the author’s contract but on the other, the publisher and the author are getting the money and it’s not piracy.

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  114. Janine
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 19:30:35

    I’ve been following this discussion with great interest and the more I read, the more confused I get about the root cause of the problem.

    The following possibilities have been suggested:

    The publisher territory restrictions prevent users from purchasing titles from retailers who are not in their same country. They are designed to ensure that ebook purchases in countries where these are taxed cannot avoid paying taxes by shopping abroad.

    many publishers have divisions in US/Canada/Europe. It seems they parts of the whole had begun to squabble over who captured the revenue for an internet sale, the division of the publisher located where the custoemr initiated purchase from, or the division of the publisher located where the server sourcing the digital file was located

    With contracts, everything breaks down to provisions, it seems and there's simply no provision for something like this-it's all too new

    Are most authors holding on to digital world rights? According to my Random House contract, I don't retain those.

    I thought this absurd result was related to WIPO related treaties (WIPO=World Intellectual Property Organization). I can't easily find any Google results to confirm that so maybe that's just wrong.

    I'm talking about ceding to the publishers global digital distribution rights.

    It seems to me that either there’s a lot of difference of opinion as to what the root cause of geographical restrictions is, or else there’s confusion, cluelessness and maybe even obfuscation about it.

    My head is spinning from trying to understand what’s really going on here.
    Can someone clarify in simple, easy to understand terms what the reason that geographical restrictions exist in the first place?

    If as Jane says, rights need to be ceded by authors, what are those rights called, and what is keeping agents from ceding them?

    If as Jill Sorenson says these rights are in fact being ceded by many authors, what is keeping publishers from distributing English language ebooks abroad?

    Is taxation and squabbling among different divisions of the same publishing house a factor in geographic restrictions as the BoB person suggested?

    If as Shiloh Walker suggests there is no contractual provision that can overcome geographic restrictions on English language digital copies does anyone know what is blocking this?

    Are the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) related treaties a factor or not? Anyone know?

    As a writer (as well as a reader) I would like to educate myself on this issue, but this discussion feels like it’s full of red herrings.

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  115. Melissa G
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 19:31:30

    Oh, Suze & Jane,

    The lost ebook sale site is a BRILLIANT idea.

    It would be awesome to put a field to enter ‘retail price’ or the price the reader would have paid (in the case of ‘hard cover’ or agency pricing) and have a HUGE TALLEY at the top showing how many cumulative dollars have been lost in sales. Even better if it was by publisher.

    I realize this could be a bit tricky with various currencies in play, but I’m pretty sure it would get someone’s attention (ebook sellers, publishers, you name it) when financials are put to it (and big ones, which they are likely to be if people begin using it).

    You might also want to ask folks if they purchased the book in paper, got it at the library or declined to purchase for clarity of metrics.

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  116. Kaetrin
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 19:32:11

    As an aside, it’s issues like GR that make me glad I enjoy m/m romance – I never have trouble buying from Dreamspinner or Loose ID or the various other epubs out there.

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  117. GrowlyCub
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 19:35:16

    Helen,

    my experience is the exact opposite over the years. I got very few responses and the few I did get either didn’t address my questions at all or completely blew me off. Clear indication they couldn’t have cared less about me as a reader.

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  118. toni mcgee causey
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 19:36:47

    Jane, I’m not surprised by that. You’ve stated multiple times that you prefer reading on an ebook device, and I, as an author, do not expect you to change your preference. I know we’d talked about this at the time. It wasn’t until last month that finally all three of my books were available in ebook format, which was frustrating to a huge set of fans who’d been asking me when it was going to happen. I suspect, like you mentioned, that most readers had moved on and wouldn’t remember the books, since the reviews and word-of-mouth had been so far in the past.

    Which is why most authors care about this, honestly. We’d really love our books out there, legally available to anyone who wants to buy the danged things.

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  119. Robin
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 19:41:06

    @toni mcgee causey: Every option is going to have flaws, but I get the sense sometimes that authors seem themselves as solitary entities whose interests are not necessarily enhanced by collective action.

    Whatever the wisdom of those ideas, if the solution is more power, I wonder whether some form of collective action shouldn’t be investigated. It may not be practicable or desirable, but that’s something you all would have to determine. Clearly you have some bad examples to guide yourselves away from, lol.

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  120. Robin
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 19:45:24

    Question: is this a genre or gender thing at all? I ask because someone upthread (Maili?) said she was reading more lit fic and crime fiction b/c of geo restrictions.

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  121. Jess Granger
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 19:48:28

    I was going to stay out of the rest of this discussion because I felt I’d said what I had to say, but I’ll answer your question as best I can.

    In the contracts I’ve seen personally, all rights to produce and distribute ebooks go to the publisher to do with as they will.

    I don’t know of any author personally that has withheld from the publisher the ability to distribute an ebook in any market the publisher wishs. There may be an author out there who’s done it, but I don’t know her personally and I’ve never seen a contract written that way. If there’s a specific clause in a new contract for global distribution, then the publisher can use it or not use it as they will, but that’s the same as what I believe is currently in most publishing contracts. It’s just not being used.

    If an author is to advocate for global distribution, it would go something like, “Are you planning on making this ebook available to all English speaking markets?” and the publisher will either say yes or no, but their answer will mean I’ll have to accept the answer and contract as stands if I want the contract at all. Now I can ask that question, and I will in the future to let the publisher know that I feel this is an important issue and concern for my readers, but even if I did that in negotiations now, you as readers won’t see any results from it for 2-3 years, when the book comes out.

    Right now we’re dealing with contracts in the big houses that are probably 2-3 years old. Some don’t have any specifics regarding digital rights at all, let alone ebook distribution. That may be the problem since then the publisher has to assume the ebook distribution has to legally follow the paper distribution since nothing in the contract specifies the distribution of ebooks.

    Add on top of that, international tax law with regard to internet commerce is in flux and publishers don’t want to get bitten by an international tax fine on unpaid taxes on sales within foreign countries, well, you have a mess.

    So, yes. We have to be patient. We have to be patient for new contracts with more specific clauses for ebook rights to filter into the market, we have to be patient for the world to figure out what to do with the internet, and we have to be patient with a publishing industry struggling to define itself.

    But demand drives the bottom line of commerce.

    Back to lurking.

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  122. Courtney Milan
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 20:10:45

    I started to type out a response, but it got way too long. So it’s on my blog.

    Short version: I think we’re dealing with a lock-in problem. It’s like, we all use QWERTY keyboards when everyone knows the Dvorak layout is better, but that’s because everyone’s always used QWERTY so nobody has wanted to change it.

    The lock-in is deep: it probably goes as deep as contracts between separate arms of publishers in foreign countries. If a US publisher started selling in foreign turf, I’m willing to bet that would be a violation of contractual rules between sister publishing houses.

    http://www.courtneymilan.com/ramblings/2010/10/31/cowry-shells-goats-and-geographic-restrictions/

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  123. Janine
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 20:10:58

    @Jess Granger: Thanks so much for answering the question to the best of your knowledge. I really do appreciate it.

    With regard to patience though, while I understand where you are coming from, I don’t know how reasonable it is to expect readers to patiently remain loyal to authors whose books aren’t available to them in their chosen format.

    As someone who pays absurdly high rent for a small apartment, I simply can’t afford the cost of storing many paperbacks. So I have a lot of sympathy for those readers who give up in frustration and move on to other authors whose books they can obtain in digital format.

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  124. Jess Granger
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 20:18:53

    I don’t blame you for that Janine. I can’t blame you for that. You buy the books you want, that you can afford in the format you like. That’s the best thing you can do as a reader.

    With patience, all I’m trying to say is that getting our collective anxiety up and expecting a change tomorrow is only going to be a lesson in frustration. We all have to take a deep breath and do what is best for us as readers and authors, and hope our collective goals cross on this one.

    We want our books out there, and you want to read them. That’s awesome. Let’s work toward that as best we can with the tools we have.

    I can’t expect readers to do something they’re not willing to do. I can only hope that’s a two way street of understanding.

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  125. Janine
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 20:21:49

    @Courtney Milan: Thanks so much for your blog post. It sheds a lot of light on the complexity of the problem.

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  126. Shiloh Walker
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 20:32:14

    @Maili:

    Isn't this an agent's job via contract? I honestly don't see how readers can do anything that could affect the current system.

    I think by making sure the publishers fully realize just how strong the demand is, it could at least make some impact. But that could be overly optimistic of me-most pubs do have ways to email customer service and if they were to be receiving emails in the same vein-’we’d like to be able to read….etc’, they’ll eventually reach the ears of those who need to see it.

    @GrowlyCub:

    Authors have no power?! So they ask their readers to take on their fight for better distribution with the publishers? Really?

    Growlycub, whether you want to believe it or not, when it comes to THIS sort of thing, the only thing we could do is say… “I want my books made available in digital format worldwide, English version.” Publisher says, No. Then we have the choice to say either accept that or walk. And I’m sorry, but I’m not walking. Do I want my books available? yes.

    But I also have responsibilities. I have kids-my writing is my job and how I provide for them. Now could I, logically, go to a place like Samhain that would make them available across the globe? Sure. But then I also don’t have the easier, cheaper access in print format-readers who want print have to wait longer and pay more. I don’t have the options for foreign rights translations, which means those wanting those? They get cut out. I don’t make as much-I actually make far less. I don’t reach as many readers. WHich doesn’t do my career any good and screws me sideways when I try to negotiate the next contract. I am not a big enough name to make the sort of demands that some want made-and this is a big demand-whether you want to see it or not, it’s a big demand. I can ask, and if I’m told no, I either live it or… the other choice?

    That’s to walk. Just walk.

    And that’s not an option. Perhaps that sounds selfish, but as my kids and family are my first priority and I’ll always do what’s right for them first, I’m not concerned if it sounds selfish or not.

    People seem to think we’re being obtuse, but we’re not.

    Publishers hold more cards than we do.

    We can ask for the moon-but unless they want to give it to us, we are just wasting our breath. We negotiate, but we only get what they are willing to give and in the end, we either accept those terms… or we don’t have a contract-which means we don’t have a job.

    That translates to one thing-publishers holding a little more power than we do. There will always be writers willing to accept less. We have to jockey and fight to keep those contracts.

    @Jane Of course we can ask. I never said otherwise. But here’s one thing nobody seems to understand.

    There are more readers.

    Far more readers. Which means you have a stronger, louder voice than we do. Yes, we can try to negotiate things with contracts. But we can’t speak for you-actually, some of us try, we just don’t do it no where near as effectively as readers do, because there are more. I’m not asking any reader to fight for this in my contacts- you can’t do that. But that doesn’t mean readers can’t start emailing publishers. Set up petitions. Make voices heard to the publishers, because they do need to hear it.

    Perhaps the best way to accomplish anything is a united approach. Jane, I realize, better than you think, where you’re coming from and maybe you want authors to handle this all on their own.

    You’re entitled to feel that way, however, I’m also entitled to feel that change will happen quicker if the businesses in question-the publishers- realize how much they are alienating their customer base. And nobody can speak for the customer base BUT the customer. And that’s the reader.

    If both groups worked to accomplish something, it would have a better chance at succeeding sooner, especially if publishers had any idea just how many readers are so unbelievably frustrated.

    As to who to contact…well, I’d start with customer service for the publisher. I checked four of the major pubs and saw emails or contact us pages right off the bat.

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  127. Moriah Jovan
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 20:38:15

    @Shiloh Walker:

    We can ask for the moon-but unless they want to give it to us, we are just wasting our breath. We negotiate, but we only get what they are willing to give and in the end, we either accept those terms… or we don't have a contract-which means we don't have a job.

    Sounds to me like you’re fairly close to being statutory employees, if not full employees, misclassified. I wonder if that has tax implications. It’d be interesting to know how the IRS would rule on a publisher’s classification of its authors… But I’m a geek that way.

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  128. Ridley
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 20:40:24

    When everyone’s arguing about how many teeth a donkey has, Courtney Milan is always the one who goes outside and counts them.

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  129. Jane
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 20:42:37

    @Shiloh Walker I understand perfectly where you are coming from. I know that this is a money issue for authors. I said so in the post itself. But I don’t think this is a reader oriented issue because reader’s have access to these books. Unfortunately it is not legitimate access.

    Let me revise that and say it is a reader issue otherwise readers wouldn’t be upset, but I think that there lacks a certain reader motivation. I.e., if digital books didn’t exist and the book wasn’t available via other methods, I think readers would be far more motivated to write and rattle their sabers but when a reader has to choose between downloading a book through illegal means or hunting through a publisher’s website to find a place where they can email only to receive no response or a poor response, what is the likely reader going to do?

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  130. MaryK
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 20:47:09

    This is kind of a sidetrack, but I’m curious. Jane, can you still access those PJ Tracy books now that you’re locked out of the UK store? Does the DRM work through the lockout or did you lose the books?

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  131. Jane
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 20:51:49

    @MaryK: I can’t access them anymore through the website. I downloaded them a while back, though, and have them stripped and saved.

    I did have two books I bought earlier this year from WH Smith – Bronwyn Perry’s australian romantic suspense (I recommend these stories. both very good) – and was able to redownload them.

    From Waterstone’s, I bought some Mills & Boon and a couple of others and I can access those.

    One of the UK sites, I used a giftcard and pretended to live in the UK (to see if it could be done) and I don’t think I have access to the one book I purchased through them. I can’t recall right now.

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  132. Author On Vacation
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 21:16:36

    @Jane:

    but when a reader has to choose between downloading a book through illegal means or hunting through a publisher's website to find a place where they can email only to receive no response or a poor response, what is the likely reader going to do?

    Morally conscious readers will do the morally conscious thing. Morally unconscious readers will do the morally unconscious thing.

    I am a morally conscious reader. I do not pirate books.

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  133. Author On Vacation
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 21:22:05

    @GrowlyCub:

    Helen,

    my experience is the exact opposite over the years. I got very few responses and the few I did get either didn't address my questions at all or completely blew me off. Clear indication they couldn't have cared less about me as a reader.

    Two things:

    1. I am very sorry this happened to you. No one should ever be made to feel like they are undervalued or unimportant.

    2. TRY AGAIN.

    ReplyReply

  134. Author On Vacation
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 21:26:27

    @Kaetrin:

    Question for the authors – if (hypothetically *cough*) a reader were to sign up to say, Books on Board and state she lived in the US (when she doesn't) and provided an address etc to buy a book that had GR for her country and then bought your book, would that offend/bother you?

    I'm curious because on the one hand, it is outside the terms of the author's contract but on the other, the publisher and the author are getting the money and it's not piracy.

    This is only my opinion. I advise you to act according to your conscience.

    I personally have never purchased any items illegally nor downloaded illegally anything. It offends my ethical principles.

    ReplyReply

  135. illukar
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 21:33:50

    Sadly (very sadly since I am one of the people held back from ebooks by region issues), I don’t see this as a problem which will go away any time soon.

    The major problem appears to be not authors, or publishers, or agents, or readers, but international law, which has apparently deemed the point of sale for an ebook to be different to the point of sale of a physical book purchased over the internet. This opens up this whole can of worms relating to what rights the author has granted, and what taxes can be applied to the ebook.

    I don’t see this problem being fixed until there is some shift in whatever laws are dictating that point of sale issue.

    As for what _can_ be done:

    - Publishers can do “stuff”. Publishers regularly negotiate contracts where they get a lot of rights, and then don’t use them. They need to wake up to the lost sales and investigate what routes they have to getting around the restrictions (up to and including trying to get the laws changed).

    - Authors can do “stuff”. Many people may not realise the sheer powerlessness of the average author. Especially when faced by the boilerplate contract of a big publishing house, there is not a lot of wiggle room. The most I can suggest for these authors is they attempt to insert a “Non-use of rights” clause. Just as a publishing contract has a requirement that the book be published within a set period, a requirement that an ebook be published on a “World English” basis will at least remove this whole “we don’t own the rights” issue.

    - Authors with Non-Boilerplate Contracts can do “stuff”. Ie. Tell your agents to stop trying to break down your contracts into regions. Yes, you get more money in advances by breaking things down. But if you’re not instructing your agent to sell World English rights to your ebooks, you’re losing sales. 100% you’re losing ebook sales for all the people who are unable to buy your ebook legitimately, and turn to torrents to get hold of it – or simply not buy it.

    - Agents can do stuff – namely advise their clients that there are a not-inconsiderable number of sales which could be lost and that selling by region – at least for ebooks – may no longer be the best bet.

    - Readers can do…what? Petitions to publishers? If the publishers haven’t figured this out already, they’re probably the sub-set who want to pretend ebooks aren’t happening. Complaints to authors? Remember, most authors have little power, and if they’re willing and able to change the way their contract is negotiated, they’ve probably done so already. Find someone with a degree in international law who could figure out the best way to tackle this point of sale issue which is at the root of the problem? Any volunteers?

    What I don’t understand is how the music industry can sell me music electronically, but the book industry cannot. How did they overcome this point of sale issue?

    ReplyReply

  136. Courtney Milan
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 21:38:31

    @Kaetrin:

    Question for the authors – if (hypothetically *cough*) a reader were to sign up to say, Books on Board and state she lived in the US (when she doesn't) and provided an address etc to buy a book that had GR for her country and then bought your book, would that offend/bother you?

    No.

    To give you some idea as to how my conscience works, though, I drive over the speed limit and park for 2.5 hours in 2 hour parking when I know I can get away with it. But I don’t kick puppies, even where not prohibited by law.

    ReplyReply

  137. Jane
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 21:44:50

    After reading all these comments and the post by Courtney Milan I think the best thing a reader can do is support the authors and publishers that want their money. That means we as readers need to do a better job of creating resources that will enable other readers to be able to find authors and publishers who have books that readers want and are willing and able to sell to those readers.

    Estara is right that we need to create a resource page with links and information that readers can share with each other on this issue.

    If authors and agents can’t make changes and publishers are unwilling to and authors wont because they perceive it to not be monetarily within their best interests, then readers’ recourse is to vote with their dollars.

    Hopefuly we readers can help each other to find good books that are available to everyone.

    ReplyReply

  138. Roxie
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 22:03:17

    @Author On Vacation: As far as I can tell there have been some good ideas put forth to enable readers and authors to tell publishers just how aggravated we all are at the current situation.

    I personally would love to have a well written form letter addressing GR, DRM, and ebook availability to send to the major publishers and let them know every single time they miss out on a sale from me.

    I love Suze’s idea of a website where I can enter lost book sales. I think this would help readers/authors/agents out there provide data on just why the ebook market is so important – and how much money publishers could make off of it.

    Jane’s idea on collecting publishers’ email addys and phone numbers to allow us readers to send those form letters or other polite grievances is also necessary.

    Is there a way to tie all three of these together?

    ReplyReply

  139. Tweets that mention How Do We Solve a Problem Like Geographic Restrictions | Dear Author -- Topsy.com
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 22:41:25

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jason Darwin, Jason Darwin. Jason Darwin said: Interesting comments by NZ ebook reader frustrated at geo restrictions preventing her buying books by her fave authors: http://bit.ly/cSjyGS [...]

  140. ka
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 00:30:53

    @Courtney Milan: I’ve been out of the work place for 10 years – do I have to learn a new keyboard when I return?!?!

    @Ridley: Bravo! I’m going to read Courtney’s blog to find out how many teeth a donkey has!

    Meanwhile, I’ll go to my grave with my paperback books. Still, interesting discussion about consumer advocacy!

    ReplyReply

  141. SarahT
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 03:07:21

    For authors who ask readers affected by geographic restrictions to be patient and wait an indeterminate amount of time for publishers to get their heads out of their asses: are YOU patient when it comes to the piracy of your books?

    I see a lot of irate blog posts and tweets from authors complaining about this issue. Yes, it’s a problem, and it’s one which will only increase thanks to the imposition of territorial restrictions on ebooks.

    There is something very wrong when a customer who wants to BUY a book is refused, yet “free” copies of said book are available all over the internet.

    As for readers contacting publishers: good luck! I emailed a bunch of them a couple of months ago. Only one deigned to respond, and that was merely a politely-worded PFO.

    ReplyReply

  142. SarahT
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 03:32:05

    @Robin: I’m not Maili but I’m in a similar situation with regard to genre availability.

    With the notable exception of Mills & Boon, American-style romances are quite different to their British counterparts. Many books which are marketed in the UK as romance wouldn’t fit the American definition of the genre. British publishers don’t tend to release editions of American romance writers’ books, and when they do, they can prove hard to market. For example, Eloisa James is a NYT-bestselling author, yet her books tanked in the UK.

    Authors of crime fiction and fantasy are better served. It is easy to find UK editions of many American fantasy and mystery novels.

    In other words, romance readers living outside the US are particularly screwed over when it comes to geographical restrictions.

    ReplyReply

  143. Edie
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 04:12:13

    Quick wave to the awesomesauce Moriah Jovan.

    @Robin – re the Maili comment re reading different genres, the genre difference being that the lit + crime books are getting picked up for the UK print runs, therefor available for ebooks. Whereas very few romance books outside Feehan, Nora and Kenyon are picked up. (That is my guess anyways)

    If the pubs are holding the e-book world rights, then it really makes even less sense to me that they aren’t being distributed through their arms in other countries. The tax argument only fits to US distributors not selling outside country, (though hello print books) Why oh WHY can’t their right hand in say Australia, be selling the ebooks?????

    Thanks for an interesting discussion everyone, always good to see other people fired up on my fave book rant. ;D

    ReplyReply

  144. Edie
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 04:13:27

    whoops I took too long reading comments, the Sarah beat me to it.

    ReplyReply

  145. Maili
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 05:39:07

    @Robin:

    Question: is this a genre or gender thing at all? I ask because someone upthread (Maili?) said she was reading more lit fic and crime fiction b/c of geo restrictions.

    Like SarahT and Edie say, it’s a genre issue. I buy international lit and crime fiction these days because digital editions of these novels are readily available at UK & US e-retailers. This includes American lit and crime fiction.

    State of play: we currently can’t buy US roms from the US (geo restrictions) and from here (lack of interest*). The best option is buy print books, but this is not an option for me, due to practical reasons. It’s digital or none at all.

    (*There are two British pubs – Piatkus and Little Black Dress – that sell British editions of US roms – and none is digitally available. Plus, their slim selections don’t interest me as I already read those novels years ago!)

    So it makes sense to buy crime and lit fiction instead of jumping through many hoops to buy a digital US rom novel. Having said that, I still buy from US digital-only rom pubs, but not as many as I used to buy US mainstream roms.

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  146. HelenB
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 07:11:44

    I really wanted Joey W Hill’s vampire series in ebook but cannot access them from the UK. I now have a Kindle and a Sony, in both cases files exist for the books but not for release in the UK. I queried this with Ms Hill and she replied that her publisher is happy for any Uk demand to be met by print copies from the US, as the UK arm of the publisher did not feel that was the demand for a UK edition. Nalini Singh is now published by Orion in the UK who also issue ebooks for her works albeit slowly. I asked Orion why they could not use the ebook files from the US and they replied that they had to reformat the books again, rather than just “repackage” a US file. I can see this when different publishers for areas are involved but not when it is parts of a whole such as penguin. On the whole romance issue, much of what is sold as romance in the UK apart from Mills and Boon, is in my opinion not romance, Chick lit or womans fiction possibly or even just fiction but the concept of the HEA seems not to be a big part of UK “romance”. On the tax front ebooks pay VAT in the UK, currently 17.5% but going up to 20% in January. Paper books are free of VAT.

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  147. Four short links: 1 November 2010
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 07:26:51

    [...] How Do We Solve a Problem Like Geographic Restrictions — if you’re building a new business in the US around ebooks, digital music, or digital video, then be aware that your international uptake will be absolutely buggerized by rights issues. YouTube is the only US media site that doesn’t suck for overseas users: don’t rave to us about Hulu, it’s inaccessible to the rest of the world. (via Liza Daly on Twitter) [...]

  148. Buying ebooks in the English-speaking world | Kindle blog
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 08:18:07

    [...] / Australian and New Zealand / South Africa / the Commonwealth and the rest of the Anglosphere, are starting to gripe about territory restrictions on ebooks. Looks like this problem is going to be a huge driver for a wave of piracy in the next six months, [...]

  149. Jane
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 08:30:37

    @Roxie We are setting up Suze’s awesome idea for a website. On that website, we are going to link to author collectives and publishers who sell without territorial restrictions. Maybe we can also keep a list of contact information there for readers who want to make complaints. Unfortunately, I don’t see any authors offering up that contact information for us and you would think that they, of all people, would be able to get information from their agent or editor as to who to contact regarding these issues particularly when these authors claim it is readers who should be contacting the publishers.

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  150. Carolyn Jewel
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 09:02:26

    Well, publishers don’t make this very easy,but here’s what I found for my publishers:

    Contact Page for Penguin Group
    http://us.penguingroup.com/static/pages/aboutus/contactus.html

    Buried at the bottom looks like the best/closest info.

    To reach our Corporate Communications department, call Marilyn Ducksworth at 212-366-2563 or Dave Zimmer at 212-366-2687.

    All other inquiries should be directed to ecommerce@us.penguingroup.com, and every effort will be made to respond to your inquiry within 48 hours.

    Here is the best info I can find for Hachette Book Group:

    Link: http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/customer_index.aspx

    Email Contact:
    Customer Service:
    customer.service@hbgusa.com
    International Customer Service:
    cs.international@hbgusa.com

    ReplyReply

  151. Jane
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 09:10:54

    @Carolyn Jewel Thanks Carolyn. I will add this to our contact page on the new site.

    ReplyReply

  152. kirsten saell
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 09:27:05

    Publishers won’t change until they realize that they’re losing substantial amounts of money–and selling foreign rights on behalf of a midlister is a nice chunk of money for the publisher. Like authors with their advances, publishers who purchase foreign rights from authors like the idea of a guaranteed payout, and selling foreign rights is money in their pocket before the first book is even sold in a foreign market.

    And they’re looking at P&L on a book-by-book basis–they’re thinking “if we sell foreign rights to 10% of our books, we’ll make x$$ on title A right now,” rather than “if we exploit worldwide English digital rights on all our titles we’ll be making 0.5x$$ over six months on title A, but 100x$$ overall.”

    They won’t think way that until readers let them know about all the sales they’re losing. If worldwide digital English rights became the norm, some books will make less money, but most will earn substantially more. For authors like Diana Gabaldon, it does make financial sense to retain foreign rights and sell them separately. For some midlisters, those who are lucky enough to see their books picked up by foreign houses, they’ll likely make more money under the old mindset, but it’s like winning a lottery.

    But for 90% of authors and with 90% of books, worldwide English digital rights would bring in more money both for them and for their publisher. Those authors know this, but even if they held down their publishers and forced them to purchase WWEDR, they can’t force the publisher to exploit those rights in all available markets.

    And money not earned is not considered a loss–it’s only considered a loss if the publisher invests in exploiting a particular right in a particular market and then profits are negative. Until the publisher attempts to earn that money, those losses don’t exist to them.

    And they aren’t going to “see” the money they’re losing until they’re made to see it. It’s unfair to put the onus on the reader to write in and tell them they’ve lost a sale, that the money is going to a used book seller or the book is going to be downloaded off a pirate site. But it really is the only way to make the ephemeral “lost sale we never wanted anyway” real to publishers.

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  153. Jess Granger
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 09:49:21

    @SarahT

    Since I feel like you were aiming the patience line at me, yes, I do have to be patient with piracy.

    Does it make me angry, yes. Is it frustrating, yes. Is there any way for it to change before the publishing industry, law for protection of intellectual property and/or accountability for content on the internet changes? No.

    So I have to be patient too. That doesn’t mean I should stop fighting it, and if this annoys you, you should fight this in any way you can.

    Frustration and rage, while natural, aren’t going to make the world turn faster.

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  154. Robin
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 09:50:11

    Thank you, Sarah T, Edie, and Maili.

    So now I’m thinking that if other genres don’t necessarily face this issue, it may not be the industry norm? Which — for me, anyway — raises a whole host of other questions.

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  155. Ros
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 10:33:38

    What I’m really struggling with here is the notion of publishers who already own global digital rights but choose not to exploit them. Why? Why, why, why? What possible reason can there be to arbitrarily choose not to sell something to part of your potential market? I get that not all publishers own these rights and that there can be complications in obtaining them. But if, as some of the authors here are saying, some publishers do have the right to sell ebooks globally, I can’t think of a single reason why they wouldn’t. The tax situation may be complicated but is obviously resolvable in the case of music or other genres of fiction that manage to have global distribution of electronic goods.

    I wrote to Loretta Chase when Last Night’s Scandal came out because I was so incensed that I could order a print copy either to be imported from amazon.com or direct from amazon.co.uk but no online store would sell me a digital copy in the UK. I was also cross because I’d previously purchased an ebook of Lord Perfect, lost the file and been unable to download it again because geographical restrictions had been enforced subsequent to my purchase. I received a very nice email from Loretta’s agent expressing sympathy with my frustrations and thanking me for writing because, ‘Your letter helps me to make a better case with the publisher’. I still can’t get the books, though. ;)

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  156. CD
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 11:13:23

    Well, from a very quick skim, the main point I got in the end was that this situation is not going to change anytime soon, if ever. If authors do not have the power and publishers won’t see the need for it, than the issue is buggered.

    Those of us who live outside the US but like to read US romances in ebook formats are probably fairly sizeable but face it, we’re somewhat niche and not exactly organised. Yes, we could get organised but this isn’t exactly a priority issue for most of us in our busy daily lives. If we can’t get a book in the format we want, well that’s just one of life’s little disappointments.

    In my opinion, the main casualty of this state of affairs are new/midlist authors. For certain authors, I WOULD make the effort of either circumventing geo restrictions or {if all else fails) buying the hard copy of their books. However, it’s the impulse buys due to good reviews and/or word of mouth that I give up on if it’s not made easy enough for me.

    Regarding circumventing geo restrictions, I’m not sure what the legality of that is but it certainly rests easy on my conscience. The author gets paid, I get the book. What’s the problem? Unfortunately, avenues are closing on this and I’m not so desperate as to get a credit card registered in the US just simply to buy ebooks.

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  157. Janine
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 11:31:15

    @Ros:

    What I'm really struggling with here is the notion of publishers who already own global digital rights but choose not to exploit them. Why? Why, why, why? What possible reason can there be to arbitrarily choose not to sell something to part of your potential market?

    Courtney Milan explains this on her blog.

    ReplyReply

  158. Author On Vacation
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 11:33:11

    @SarahT:

    For authors who ask readers affected by geographic restrictions to be patient and wait an indeterminate amount of time for publishers to get their heads out of their asses: are YOU patient when it comes to the piracy of your books?

    I see a lot of irate blog posts and tweets from authors complaining about this issue. Yes, it's a problem, and it's one which will only increase thanks to the imposition of territorial restrictions on ebooks.

    There is something very wrong when a customer who wants to BUY a book is refused, yet “free” copies of said book are available all over the internet.

    As for readers contacting publishers: good luck! I emailed a bunch of them a couple of months ago. Only one deigned to respond, and that was merely a politely-worded PFO.

    SarahT, with respect, authors should not be expected to be “patient” or “understanding” about the illegal downloading of their published works. They are being taken advantage of and their work is being exploited.

    I empathize completely with any frustration a reader feels when particular books are unavailable to them. However, unavailability of an ebook isn’t exploiting the reader, nor is the reader abused in any way.

    I remember when I discovered my first published work on a torrent site. It was like being slapped in the face and laughed at. I was genuinely shocked. I’d thought since I was so new to publishing I’d at least get a few releases under my belt before anyone bothered to notice my books and pirate them. No such luck.

    I’ve NEVER felt that kind of violation and outrage from not being able to buy an ebook. Have I felt inconvenienced? Yes. Frustrated? You bet. The crucial difference is my legal rights are not being violated just because a company can’t/won’t sell me something.

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  159. Jackie Barbosa
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 11:36:09

    @Jane: I just have to wonder, Jane–will the digital edition anthology you’re editing for Berkley be free of geographic restrictions?

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  160. Jackie Barbosa
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 11:47:25

    kristensaell said:
    …even if they held down their publishers and forced them to purchase WWEDR, they can't force the publisher to exploit those rights in all available markets.

    I don’t even think it’s that publishers aren’t BUYING and/or don’t want to buy worldwide English digital rights; it’s that they prefer to buy them and then piecemeal them out for 1) greater reventue and possibly 2) to avoid running afoul of international tax laws and/or contractual agreements as Courtney Milan has pointed out.

    I know there is absolutely nothing in the contract I signed with Kensington that could POSSIBLY restrict them from making my book available in English in digital format in every country in the world. At least as far as I know, they have not done so, presumably in large part for reason #2 but also possibly for reason #1.

    Could authors demand that the publisher include global distribution rights in the contract? Sure, I guess they could. I’m just wondering if that would require the publisher to EXERCISE them…

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  161. Jess Granger
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 11:58:35

    Exactly Jackie,

    In the beginning of this discussion, I thought that was what the readers here wanted us to try to negotiate into our contracts, some clause that forces the publishers to use the rights we’ve given them. That would be beyond our power as authors.

    I realize now that readers were asking why there isn’t a clause giving the publishers rights to distribute globally. For clarification, in my case, and clearly yours, the publisher already has those rights.

    Thank you.

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  162. SarahT
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 12:19:50

    @Author On Vacation: I wasn’t suggesting authors should be patient or understanding about piracy. My point was that it is as ridiculous to ask a reader to be understanding about the fact that, say, a book they have PURCHASED can no longer be downloaded from the shop they bought it because the publisher decided to impose geographical restrictions. How is that not a violation of the reader’s rights?

    I’m NOT defending pirates, nor suggesting authors should ignore the problem. What I am saying is that territorial restrictions are increasing its prevalence. Surely it would make sense for authors (or their agents) to address this problem as part of their campaign against piracy?

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  163. Deb
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 12:31:57

    And maybe it isn’t just the publishers who seem to be holding back global digital books:
    http://bit.ly/8YJS2O

    Article seems to indicate agents may also be fighting this. The role of the agent is changing with digital publishing.

    It would be naive to think there is one “culprit” and thus one solution.

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  164. Chicklet
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 12:41:25

    It seems to me that piracy is partly related to geographic restrictions on ebooks — that is, people download pirated ebooks because they can’t buy them due to geographic restrictions. Therefore, it would be in publishers’ best interests to find a way to offer English-language ebooks worldwide. Would it eliminate ebook piracy? Oh, hell no. But I think it would eliminate some of it. At the very least, it would cultivate a worldwide audience for more authors — and generate more money.

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  165. Author On Vacation
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 13:16:56

    @SarahT:

    @Author On Vacation: I wasn't suggesting authors should be patient or understanding about piracy. My point was that it is as ridiculous to ask a reader to be understanding about the fact that, say, a book they have PURCHASED can no longer be downloaded from the shop they bought it because the publisher decided to impose geographical restrictions. How is that not a violation of the reader's rights?

    I would agree this is nowhere near fair. It is certainly unethical and I’d think it would be illegal unless the bookseller reimbursed the purchaser for the merchandise s/he purchased legally and may no longer access and enjoy.

    I encourage any consumer facing this kind of abuse to address it through the appropriate channels and seek compensation. Customers should either be refunded the price paid for the book or provided with another “acceptable” version of the book.

    ReplyReply

  166. Motivation Monday | Solelyfictional
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 14:26:32

    [...] Dear Author starts a debate on geographical restrictions (who has more powers over publishers, readers or authors? It gets a little fractious in those [...]

  167. Author On Vacation
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 14:45:21

    @Chicklet:

    It seems to me that piracy is partly related to geographic restrictions on ebooks -’ that is, people download pirated ebooks because they can't buy them due to geographic restrictions. Therefore, it would be in publishers' best interests to find a way to offer English-language ebooks worldwide. Would it eliminate ebook piracy? Oh, hell no. But I think it would eliminate some of it. At the very least, it would cultivate a worldwide audience for more authors -’ and generate more money.

    I’m unconvinced people choosing to pirate ebooks (or any other copyrighted materials) would opt to legally purchase them. The problem is a lack of ethics, not a lack of legally available books.

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  168. Jane
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 15:00:01

    @Chicklet Yep. According to studies out there, piracy sources are primarily from the non home territories of the works.

    ReplyReply

  169. Jane
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 15:00:32

    @Deb I’ve heard this in emails this morning that agents are a big player in keeping these rights parceled out.

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  170. Ros
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 15:01:05

    @Author On Vacation: I respectfully disagree. There are lots of reasons why it is incredibly difficult to purchase ebooks legally (including the geographical restrictions). I don’t download pirate copies but there are times when I really, really want to and I completely sympathise with the many frustrated readers who do resort to the illegal copies because publishers make it so hard, and at times impossible, to purchase their books. See here: http://bradcolbow.com/archive/view/the_brads_why_drm_doesnt_work/?p=205

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  171. Jane
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 15:01:14

    @Jackie Barbosa Penguin has the world English rights and I’ll be emailing them regularly to ensure that it is made available in as many territories and regions as possible.

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  172. v
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 15:03:45

    It seem that people like to see things as black and white, when they rarely are. Some people who pirate would buy if they could. And the fact that authors can’t fix this problem doesn’t mean reader-consumers should be ‘patient’. They should be as pissed off as they want. But even Jodi Picoult hasn’t been able to make her publisher put out a widely available ebook. So being pissed off at the publisher might be the more productive approach.

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  173. Jackie Barbosa
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 15:19:34

    @Jane: I hope you’ll keep us posted on the success of that strategy. I’d love to believe it would really be as simple as authors petitioning their publishers to make their books available in as many regions and territories as possible. My bet, however, is that the publishers’ interpretation what’s “possible” has very little to do with what rights have been granted under contract and everything to do with those pesky tax and contractual obligations, not to mention the potential profit motive.

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  174. Jane
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 15:21:51

    @Jackie Barbosa I remain optimistic particularly as I know that another author has been successful in getting world distribution of a digital copy of her book without a corresponding print sale or a foreign rights sale.

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  175. SarahT
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 15:24:08

    Regarding piracy sources being primarily from the non home territories of the works: I’ve heard this as well. Many of the file sharing sites are hosted in countries which have less stringent copyright laws than the US or the UK. However, this doesn’t mean all the people using these sites are from outside the US/UK, and this is something that publishers tend to forget.

    I would argue that most of the people who choose to download a pirated copy of an ebook which they could legally buy are the sort of pirates the publishing industry can do very little about. They just want something for free.

    Then there are those who download an ebook because it is otherwise unavailable to them. No, this is not “right”, but there are countries in which downloading copyrighted material is not a criminal act. I don’t do it because I’d like to be a published author one day. It’s a moral choice, not because I’m worried I’d get caught for doing it.

    However, I know many people who have started downloading pirated versions of ebooks since geographical restrictions came into play. The majority of them are frustrated would-be customers who don’t want to purchase a book, they want an ebook, and publishers/etailers are making it impossible for them to buy a copy. Only the other day, a friend told me that the only thing stopping her from downloading these days is the fear of malware.

    Again, piracy is not right, no matter what the circumstances. It’s not fair to authors, especially those who have little say in what happens to their foreign rights. But I’m convinced the rigid imposition of geographical restrictions is exacerbating the problem.

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  176. Jackie Barbosa
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 15:32:06

    @Jane: Are you saying the author who has “global digital distribution” in her contract has a book that is ONLY available in digital? I ask because that sounds like a small press sale, and if that’s the case, the publisher may not be bound by many of contractual obligations that a large publisher like Penguin (with sister companies in many other countries) would have.

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  177. Jane
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 15:35:18

    @Jackie Barbosa No, this is a print book with global digital distribution with a big 6 publisher.

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  178. Jackie Barbosa
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 15:39:37

    @Jane: Thanks for the clarification. (You said “no print book or foreign rights sale,” which confused me.)

    I know I’m being a pain, but…is the book out and verifiably available in digital format worldwide? It’s not that I don’t believe you, but I do wonder how the publisher is getting around all its sister company obligations not to mention the tax issues just for one author’s book. One would think if it were really this easy, there would be no reason for publishers NOT to distribute the English digital copy everywhere because, in most cases, the author has already given them the right to do so.

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  179. Jane
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 15:41:10

    @SarahT Right. Making the book available everywhere will not eliminate piracy, nothing will. But I do think that there are measures one can take to reduce piracy. And, you have to wonder if a) publishers don’t see a cause and effect here or b) they don’t think international piracy is a big enough issue to warrant making a change.

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  180. Jane
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 15:51:00

    @Jackie Barbosa I know it is purchasable in territories like Australia and UK. I don’t know other regions and wouldn’t know how to check that.

    And “no print book” means that there is no corresponding Print Edition of the work published through another territory publisher.

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  181. Statch
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 15:51:49

    I love the idea of the website where readers could record what books went unbought because of geographic restrictions. I’d like to see it also allow us to record which books we didn’t buy because of Agency pricing. I’m keeping a ‘wish list,’ and I’m up to 50 books I haven’t bought since June that would normally have been auto-buys. It would be wonderful to see all that lost revenue tracked.

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  182. Jane
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 16:02:53

    @Statch We are building the site right now. Having some issues deciding what to include in the form. Can I email you offlist for a beta look?

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  183. Jane
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 16:03:26

    @Suze Can I email you offlist for a beta look at what we are building?

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  184. Author On Vacation
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 16:46:41

    @Ros:

    @Author On Vacation: I respectfully disagree. There are lots of reasons why it is incredibly difficult to purchase ebooks legally (including the geographical restrictions). I don't download pirate copies but there are times when I really, really want to and I completely sympathise with the many frustrated readers who do resort to the illegal copies because publishers make it so hard, and at times impossible, to purchase their books.

    Ros, I agree with your main point. The situation (limited availability or no availability of books or ebooks for customers willing to buy them) is absurd. In our present levels of technological advancement, it is inexcusable that anyone with computer access and funds wishing to purchase books should face restriction.

    It even strikes me as slightly evil, but I’ve always been neurotically fond of books.

    I agree these restrictions are a problem and that the publishing industry needs to take note and adjust its system appropriately to make its products legally available to everyone.

    I still don’t think desire for a particular item justifies unlawful behavior.

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  185. Ros
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 16:55:13

    @Author On Vacation:

    I still don't think desire for a particular item justifies unlawful behavior.

    I didn’t say it did. Just that I do think that there would be a reduction in pirated ebooks if legal ebooks were more easily available.

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  186. Suze
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 18:31:21

    @Jane: Absolutely! Sorry, I moved offices today and my computer was down.

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  187. Jane
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 19:03:09

    @Jackie Barbosa According to the publisher, the Agony Ecstasy collection will be available everywhere (Digitally) so long as the retailer accepts agency pricing.

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  188. Statch
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 20:12:37

    @Jane, yes, of course — I’d love to have a look at the beta site.

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  189. Insane Hussein
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 23:47:40

    I’m gonna comment:

    One, to AuthorOnVacation: Did you really tell GrowlyCub to “TRY AGAIN”? Why would she, if she was made to feel as if she were unimportant?

    Two: I buy primarily in print, even request ARCs in print, because it is my preferred format (I love to feel the book, to be able to have it in my greedy little hands and flip through the pages).

    However, I have been getting more in to eARCs and eBooks because my library is 600+ print strong and my books have spilled over from those in my bedroom to those in my basement.

    Of course, times are a-changing and so is the room I have left for books.

    I bought a Nook a few months ago, and I love it. Authors and publishers have been sending me eARCs and I’ve been reformatting and sending them to my ereader as I can. My ereader is slimmer and less bulky and weighty than a print book. (Ok, and the cases for my nook are too cute).

    I’ve bought a fair amount of ebooks on my nook, and have even downloaded free ebooks from the B&N website as they’re available. However, when I want an ebook of an author whose work is only epubbed in another country, GR gets me. Every time. I could get around this by saying I live in the UK (I have family there so could use their address).

    That, or pirate. But, I like to support the authors (not the publishers) because there are some I am a loyal reader of and some whom I’ve met via twitter or at RomCon and are new reads and I want to support them too. I spend my money on these books because I want the enjoyment of having the books and and reading the stories, without a guilty conscience.

    I think most, if not all, publishers do not understand the importance of providing available original language books in other countries, like The Netherlands, Switzerland, France, Russia, whatever. A lot of readers want these books, mostly those in English language, available in their geographical location because they could be US military serving overseas, English is practically a second language in most countries, especially European, and, hey, they don’t need to be translated out of English. And for books that are translated to native languages.

    This seems to be a collective situation and problem for all involved (publishers, authors and readers). The publishers see their consumers as booksellers and warehouses and distribution centers. They don’t seem, or refuse, to comprehend that their true consumers are, in fact, us. The readers.

    As Shiloh stated, authors all have lives. And those lives cost money. Between the choice of thinking first of their readers and trying to get clauses included in their publishing contracts to maximize exposure and sales, or first putting food on the table, paying rent, car payments, I’m gonna go with the fact that they’re gonna choose to take the (best) contract they can get and put food on the table, make that car payment, pay that rent.

    I’m not saying authors don’t care about their readers, because they do. They want their readers. Without readers, their books, the products, won’t move. So they hope for ebooks or print or whatever, and share in the frustration that their international readers have when those newly published books are not available in their region due to GR.

    In addition, the ebook industry is becoming a huge deal among readers, regardless of genre. Why build and mass-produce ereaders globally if you’re not going to have ebooks available for sale, globally? It makes no sense and is counterproductive and hurtful to the publisher’s bottom line. It is also the same for the booksellers. While booksellers are NOT physically stocking the shelves with ebooks, they are doing so, electronically, via room on their servers.

    We demand. We demand books be available, in print and/or ebook format in our countries. But, we only complain to our local booksellers. They can’t do anything about it alone.

    I truly like Suze’s idea of the lost ebook sale website, and, for lack of a better term, pimping that site to publishers via social media, emails, comments on their websites, to show them that we are the consumer and not the booksellers, that we are not buying the ebooks because they are not available in our regions due to GR and the publisher’s lack/willingness to sell the ebooks in those areas.

    Wow, that was truly long-winded. I did skip a fair amount of comments here, and some of my own views may be skewed. I am not a published author nor am I anywhere near to thinking of becoming published, but I do think my points are valid.

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  190. Insane Hussein
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 23:50:26

    Also, Jane, I’d love to be a beta tester for the ebook sale site. I even possess coding ability. :D

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  191. DS
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 07:39:53

    As someone who used to get her BBC mystery fix by buying DVDs from the Netherlands and dealing with the PAL issue, I understand the frustration– there’s also some British mysteries and historical fiction I would love to get in ebook or audio when they first come out.

    I think the web site is a good idea and I would certainly help by listing books I don’t buy because I cannot get them. I’m not sure what the site is going to look like, but don’t forget that audio books are also part of this geographical rights mess.

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  192. kirsten saell
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 08:47:40

    @Jackie Barbosa: I don't even think it's that publishers aren't BUYING and/or don't want to buy worldwide English digital rights; it's that they prefer to buy them and then piecemeal them out for 1) greater reventue and possibly 2) to avoid running afoul of international tax laws and/or contractual agreements as Courtney Milan has pointed out.

    The problem is that publishers do P&L on a book by book basis, and so much of it is based on profit potential–so if they hold WWEDR, it does make sense to them to sell those rights to foreign houses. They will ALWAYS get more money on a given title…IF someone buys those rights. But for most titles, no one buys, so foreign rights profits end up being zero.

    Potential profit per title is always more if they piecemeal those rights, but actual profits over all titles would be HUGE if they simply exploited those rights themselves on all books to which they held rights, with perhaps the exception of bestsellers (who probably hold onto those rights anyway). Or maybe spend a couple months shopping the rights around, and if there are no takers, go ahead and do it themselves.

    I publish with Samhain, and I’m not 100% sure about the availability of digital copies of my books, but I have seen my books available in print in India, the Netherlands, the UK, Australia, etc. I’m pretty sure that the digital version is available pretty much anywhere, and as far as I know, Samhain hasn’t been dragged into an international tax court yet.

    It seems that avoiding running afoul of international tax laws would be a matter of “practice makes perfect”. Once you have the mechanism in place to exploit a specific title in a given market, that mechanism will then work for every title in that market.

    As far as contractual obligations toward other arms of the same parent company–why the hell don’t they amend their contracts to give those arms a reasonable time during which they can make an offer for foreign rights on a title? If they don’t offer, then the main publisher is free to exploit digital rights in that market. Seems so simple to me. (I’m aware renegotiating contracts can be expensive, but the parent companies should be able to look at the potential bottom line and say, “Listen, kids, I want you to come to an agreement on this.”)

    It’s true, on a title-by-title basis, the books that get sold to foreign publishers would earn less (possibly quite a bit less), but I believe publishers (and most authors) would earn much more across their entire catalogue if they exploited WWDER on all their titles.

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  193. Jackie Barbosa
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 11:43:41

    The reply button doesn’t seem to be working anymore…my apologies,

    kristensaell said:
    “It's true, on a title-by-title basis, the books that get sold to foreign publishers would earn less (possibly quite a bit less), but I believe publishers (and most authors) would earn much more across their entire catalogue if they exploited WWDER on all their titles.”

    I think you’re right, but I also think publishers feel that foreign publishers are more likely to want to buy the rights to the book if they get BOTH print and digital right. Granted that most books won’t sell foreign rights at all, if the publisher “cannibalizes” the digital rights by making the book available in English in foreign countries, they may be decreasing the chance of making the foreign sale at all. I don’t know this for certain, of course–I’m speculating. And the reason I speculate is because I don’t believe publishers would deliberately deprive themselves of revenue in the current environment without a pretty good reason. (This is not to say that their calculations of risk/benefit are accurate, mind you, just I think they are making those calculations.)

    To my knowledge, there have been no foreign rights sales of my Kensington book, but I can tell that it is available in both print and Kindle format in the UK because it’s listed on Amazon UK. What I can’t tell is whether readers in Australia or New Zealand or other European countries in digital format from either Amazon UK or Amazon US. I’d love to know that, but I’m not sure how to find out short of having people from other countries try to buy the Kindle edition and see what happens. Certainly, there is nothing in my contract that would preclude Kensington from making the book available in those countries. They have all the rights they need. I, the author, am not stopping them :).

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  194. Author On Vacation
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 11:47:45

    @Insane Hussein:

    I'm gonna comment:

    One, to AuthorOnVacation: Did you really tell GrowlyCub to “TRY AGAIN”? Why would she, if she was made to feel as if she were unimportant?

    Does GrowlyCub have anything to lose by insisting s/he be heeded?

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  195. Moriah Jovan
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 12:47:29

    @Author On Vacation:

    Does GrowlyCub have anything to lose by insisting s/he be heeded?

    Time.

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  196. Insane Hussein
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 13:40:55

    @Author On Vacation:

    Does GrowlyCub have anything to lose by insisting s/he be heeded?

    Yes, GrowlyCub loses time, and patience. She also loses interest in said publishers, re books, if they are unavailable to her.

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  197. emmad
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 15:03:04

    I’m another person from New Zealand. I fairly recently purchased a Kindle and love the device itself.

    Have found my spend on books has increased but I’m also increasing my wishlist due to the number of books I want to buy but can’t due to the geo restrictions.

    Would love to have a site to go to to record this and that also has links to place’s where books can be obtained.

    Do find that as a fairly new EReader owner there is no one place that lets me know where the best online stores are for my Country. So many I go to and go through the purchase process only to be told right at the end oh sorry you can’t purchase that.

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  198. ShellBell
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 15:20:29

    @Jackie Barbosa
    (apologies but can’t see the reply button when I use my iPad)
    I had a look on Kobo’s site and for NZ readers the only book available is your free read Twelfth Night and on Amazon’s Asia/Pacific store there appear to be 2 books available – Branded and Behind the Red Door. I refuse to use Amazon as I find the iPad app and book format is limiting and I prefer to only have 2 or 3 apps to read my books on, not 1 app for each store. Amazon’s Asia/Pacific store also has limited content for readers, just as Kobo and Whitcoulls content is limited for NZ readers.

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  199. ShellBell
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 15:27:32

    @emmad
    The only other place is Fictionwise as their multiformat eBooks are DRM free and I think they generally have a kindle format available. I don’t what books you read but if you are after well-known authors then they probably won’t be there but you may discover some new authors to read.

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  200. Another Author
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 16:48:32

    @Author On Vacation:

    I'm unconvinced people choosing to pirate ebooks (or any other copyrighted materials) would opt to legally purchase them. The problem is a lack of ethics, not a lack of legally available books.

    Then you’d be wrong.

    Before things like Kindle previews came along, I downloaded books for free to try them. I’ve bought at least ten authors off the top of my head that I wouldn’t have otherwise because I downloaded pirated copies.

    I download digital copies of my print books because I have a right to have a backup copy (it’s called phase-shifting). It’s a waste of time for me to scan my own books when someone else has already done that for me. Whatever. I know that I support authors with money; I really don’t care what kind of moral judgments other people make on total strangers.

    I’m not willing to debate ethics with anyone today; I just wanted to point out that making sweeping assumptions is in poor form in a discussion.

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