Round up #153: Hydra deal changes, Tim Cook may be deposed

Round up #153: Hydra deal changes, Tim Cook may be deposed

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Cook-ing the E-books in Court

What’s is Apple’s most important asset? The iPhone? The iPad?

How about Steve Jobs’ mystique?

I think that’s what might get Apple to finally settle on the Agency Model before they end up in open court.

CEO (Chief Executive Officer) Tim Cook has been ordered to testify in the Department of Justice case against Apple for conspiring with five publishers (all of which have settled now) to raise e-book prices:

Reuters article

Apple’s not happy about that, and for very good reason. Eleven Apple employees have already been deposed or are scheduled to be deposed and, hey, Cook wasn’t even in charge when the deals were made.

No, but Steve Jobs was, and the DoJ argues that Cook may be able to testify (during a four-hour session) as to what Jobs said about e-books and e-book pricing.

If I was Apple, that’s the last thing I’d want. I don’t want Tim Cook to be involved in anything that might hurt Steve Jobs’ reputation.

Apple users love Steve Jobs, and not without reason. If Tim Cook has to deal with negative allegations about Jobs, Cook can only lose. If the current CEO affirms bad things about the old CEO, it makes it look like Apple is now disconnected from the Jobs magic. If the current CEO vigorously defends the old CEO, it looks like Apple can’t grow in a new direction. If it comes out as neutral, Apple looks rudderless.

They do not want that happening in the public eye.

This first thing is a deposition, so that’s different from open court.

I actually think Apple might settle if it looks like Cook might end up on TV in the actual trial messing with Jobs’ public image.

Apple already settled in the EU. Settling doesn’t look so bad…part of the agreement could be that they don’t admit to any wrongdoing.

I really hand it to Judge Denise Cote, who has made things happen very quickly in e-book cases…while we’ve waited years for Judge Denny Chin to do things in the Google settlement.

Random House redoes the Hydra deal

I recently wrote about Random House’s new digital imprints, including Hydra, and how the S.F.W.A. (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) and its President had publicly expressed their dissatisfaction with the offering.

Random House has now changed the terms:

A SPECIAL MESSAGE FROM HYDRA, ALIBI, LOVESWEPT AND FLIRT

Let me address two things here. First, the fact that it changed, and second,how the new deal looks.

I had suggested that S.F.W.A. President John Scalzi using the “F word” in a personal blog post about the Hydra terms was likely to be counter-productive.

I still think it may have been.

We have to be careful about cause and effect. We can’t say that Scalzi’s post caused the change. We can say that the change followed Scalzi’s post.

I was fascinated by the way Random House indicated the change happened:

“In response to recent constructive discussions with authors, agents and writers’ groups, including the Horror Writers Association…”

Notice that they didn’t mention the S.F.W.A.

As far as I know (I checked their website and did a quick Google search), the H.W.A. didn’t take the dispute public, or use words like “onerous”.

I know my own prejudice is that treating someone else with respect is more likely to get them to modify their behavior than publicly disrespecting them (I don’t have data that proves that, and certainly, different tactics may apply in different situations), but I will say I’m happy that it changed.

The new deal gives authors a choice of two options (and I think choice is good).

Either the author splits the profits 50-50 with the publisher, or the author gets 25% of receipts.

The profit one means that the costs of producing the book have to be met first; that’s not true with receipts. The second one also offers an advance, which was a sticking point for the S.F.W.A..

In either case, they are still licensing rights for all territories, which I think is a good thing and something I’ve predicted before. It just makes sense in a digital world that you don’t have to enter into separate negotiations for the USA, Australia, the UK, and Japan (for example).

They’ve also addressed the issue of the rights being for the length of the copyright term (which did seem ridiculously long). Now, if (after the first three years) the book fails to sell 300 “copies” in a year, the author can request reversion of rights.

Then there was the issue of derivative works, which Random House seemed to suggest they would have rights to do automatically in the first deal. In the new deal, it’s an additional negotiation if they want to, say, make a video game.

All in all, it seems like a great improvement.

Netflix stock rises on new social element

The feature I would most like to see go away in Netflix is the “recently watched” element.

Our adult kid and I both use one Netflix account, and honestly, it always seems a bit strange to see what the other person has been recently watching.

I don’t have any problem adding something to our Instant Queue to be able to pick up where I left off…I don’t need to know about something that our kid watched and finished. At least, that should be optional.

However, I am from a generation that was more concerned with privacy. My kids generation is much more open about sharing.

I’ve been repeatedly saying that Amazon would benefit from having the option to make our reading more social.

According to this

New York Times article

and many others, Netflix is teaming up with Facebook so that people can share what they’ve watched with others (it’s more than that).

Netflix stock saw a big bump following the announcement.

Now, you might think that’s just because Netflix is teaming up with Facebook (the third largest “country” in the world, by population), but remember, Wall Street doesn’t like Facebook much. ;)

I don’t think Amazon needs to align with Facebook to get social, although they could.

January bookstore sales up 5.5%

This brief

Publishers Weekly article

says that bookstore sales in January in the USA were up 5.5%.

There are a couple of interesting things to tease out of this, even though it is fewer than fifty words.

First, yay! Bookstore sales are up. :)

However, they weren’t up as much as entire retail segment, which rose 6.1% in the same period. The recovery may be related to broad economics, in which case the headline could have read, “Bookstore sales lag behind”.

The other thing was the definition of a bookstore: “…all sales from stores that generate at least 50% of their revenue from books”.

I wonder if that includes Barnes & Noble.

I know that might seem odd at first, but B&N stores sell a lot of things besides books, including magazines, toys, shirts, coffee, and of course, the relatively expensive electronics (including the NOOK tablet line).

My guess is that their revenue is probably still at least 50% from books, but I’d also bet that the ratio has changed dramatically in the past ten years.

The eyes have it

By this time tomorrow, we may know that the Samsung Galaxy S IV has been announced, and that is has an eye-tracking feature:

engadget article

I’ll just say, now that it seems like eye-tracking (which I’ve written about before) is close, I really want it! I commonly do part of my morning Flipboard read with my Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ 4G LTE Wireless 32GB in its cover, sitting on the towel bar in the bathroom (with a towel under it…better traction), while I exercise. Several of my exercises make it hard to touch the screen to choose articles or “turn pages”. Those are times I’d love to have eye-tracking! I think we’ll all have the option to have it within a few years, and I’ll be interested to see just how robust the feature is on the GSIV (if it exists at all…I expect it will, but it is all just strong rumor at this point).

Update: here’s the video of the razzle dazzle Galaxy S IV announcement:

Unpacked Video

Start at 40 minutes, 30 seconds into it…the rest of it is just vamping for an intro.

What do you think? Does Apple want to protect the Steve Jobs’ image the way Disney protects Walt’s? Would that impact their deciding to go to court or not, in a case which has reportedly produced eight million pages of evidence…so far? Is the Netflix stock bump because of the social aspect, or because Netflix is showing innovation…including with House of Cards? Is the Hydra deal good? Did John Scalzi help make that change happen? Should I be more referring to it as the Loveswept deal? ;) Were you surprised to hear bookstore sales rose? Feel free to let me and readers know by commenting on this post.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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2 Responses to “Round up #153: Hydra deal changes, Tim Cook may be deposed”

  1. Edward Boyhan Says:

    There’s a lot of asphalt between throwing Jobs under the bus, and defending him as the second coming of the deity. To some extent it depends upon what paper trail, if any, exists between Cook and Jobs on the subject of eBooks. If little or none, there’s always: “we didn’t talk about that”, or: “I don’t recall” (a perennial favorite with defense lawyers everywhere :grin).

    As to the hydra deal, it may be better, but it’s still pretty bad — indie authors get a much better deal from Amazon’s KDP. I couldn’t say what impact Scalzi’s comments may have had, but the overwhelming feedback RH got from just about every quarter was negative. Tradpubs IMO are fighting an uphill battle in a changing world that (again IMO) makes 90% of what they traditionally used to do completely irrelevant.

    Eye tracking is interesting, but I’m from Missouri — it will depend upon the quality of the implementation. It will depend a lot on software — an area where Samsung doesn’t have much of a track record. Eye tracking sounds great, but I suspect it might be too gross in its detections such that it’s little more than a different flavor of gesture recognition a la Kinect. Time will tell — maybe the Mark III version …

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      Yep…that “asphalt” is what I meant by “…If it comes out as neutral, Apple looks rudderless.” People who don’t usually watch court trials would likely see sound bites, and that would include techies. Saying, “I don’t recall” when you obviously must would contribute to that rudderless idea.

      Authors do get better royalties with KDP (if they stay within Amazon’s guidelines…if not, it’s 35% versus 50% on the profit share plan from RH), and they don’t get RH’s promotion (although what that is worth in a changing world is tougher to assess).

      I like the software on my Samsung Captivate SmartPhone…I can get to functions in a more intuitive way then on the iPhones I’ve tried. I think you are right, though, that it will be a bit of time before that really becomes the standard (but I think it will within a few years).

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