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Monday, December 14, 2009

E-Book Backlist Publishing Rights and Challenges

Who owns e-book publishing rights to older backlist books, the author (or author's estate) or the first publisher? Here are two articles about this topic and a third article on challenges to e-book publishing.

In this NYT article, author William Styrom's family is asserting their e-book publishing rights to his books (Sophie's Choice and others). Similar battles are ongoing for Joseph Heller's Catch 22 and for many other authors. Styrom's family believes they retain the rights since the books were published prior to the onset of e-book publishing. In this PW article, Styrom's publisher, Random House, disagrees. Random House chairman Markus Dohle's letter to agents states that Random House

...believes the “vast majority” of its backlist contracts “grant us the right to publish books in electronic formats,” while older agreements “often give us the exclusive right to publish ‘in book form’ or ‘in any and all editions.’

In a related article, Stephen's Lighthouse blog gives ten challenges for e-books, including price, perceived poor quality, a lack of richness and others.

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