To Kill a Mockingbird e-book at B&N, but is it legal?

To Kill a Mockingbird e-book at B&N, but is it legal?

You can go to

eReaderIQ

and list books to have them notify you when they are released in Kindle format. This is one of the great free services offered by that site, which is perhaps the most valuable Kindle resource on the web.

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is the most watched book right now, and typically has been.

Why isn’t it already legally in e-book form?

Well, my understanding is that Harper Lee doesn’t like to talk about TKaM, and even perhaps wishes it was never published in the first place (for personal reasons).

Rather than being specifically opposed to e-books, my sense is that no one wants to approach the author about the issue, and while that unfortunately makes the book unavailable, I can respect that.

So, it was quite a surprise when I was alerted to this listing at Barnes & Noble:

To Kill a Mockingbird e-book

Thanks to Meya, one of the Kindle Forum Pros, for that heads-up!

If this was a legitimate edition, done with permission of Harper Lee, I would have seen it announced six ways to Sunday (even though this is Sunday). It would be as big a coup as when the Harry Potter books went to e-book (although somehow, I don’t think “Harpermore” would be as fun) ;) and if a publisher got it, they’d trumpet it.

I checked first to see that it was the book, and not a guide book or something. They have a “look inside” feature, and it appears to be the full work.

Then, I looked at the publisher listed. It says it is from “Micro Publishing”. A quick search doesn’t show me a publisher with that name.

Harper Lee has been with HarperCollins (I believe HarperCollins and Harper Lee are just  coincidentally similar) as a publisher for some time, so I checked their site: no evidence of an e-book.

Actually, that’s a good path for me: I’ll probably send HarperCollins something to give them a heads-up.

This could be a legitimate version, but I think that’s unlikely. You usually can’t complain about infringement on behalf of someone if you don’t have a personal stake in the book: it would make it too likely for nuisance removals, which is apparently what happens at YouTube.

Anyway, if this an authorized edition and Amazon also gets it, great. I think the most likely thing, though, is that this is someone using Barnes & Noble’s independent publishing platform to infringe).

What happens if you buy it as a NOOK book and it turns out it is infringing? You won’t be legally liable for anything…it’s the distribution that’s the problem. The Supreme Court has ruled that having infringing copies isn’t the same as having stolen goods (infringement and theft are two different crimes, for one thing). Amazon famously removed infringing copies of 1984 from Kindles, and said they wouldn’t do that again in the same circumstances (that was overstepping the bounds…as I mentioned, having the book wasn’t illegal). I would hope, though, that people would voluntarily delete it.

If I hear more, I’ll let you know.

Update: it appears to be gone from Barnes & Noble this morning. It’s possible that the post here and/or my contacting HarperCollins had something to do with it.

I suspect some people probably wish it was still there, but if it was infringing, I’m happy to see it gone.

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

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4 Responses to “To Kill a Mockingbird e-book at B&N, but is it legal?”

  1. Pam Says:

    Bufo, in looking at the reviews, a couple of people commented that the book is only as long as the sample and advised not to buy.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Pam!

      I started to read through those…it’s interesting, because there are many five-star reviews that don’t say that. I think it’s possible that the 5-star ones are reviews of To Kill a Mockingbird, but not specifically of this edition.

      I’ve alerted HarperCollins, but it may be that it would have to be Harper Lee’s team that complained…and I don’t know if they would.

  2. Steve Says:

    If you do a Google search for to kill a mockingbird ebook
    the top hit (at least for me) is a pdf file of “To Kill a Mockingbird” posted on a school district site. My guess is that someone mistakenly posted the file on a public part of the site. The pdf looks like something that a publisher would make available to schools to meet ada access requirements.

  3. rogerknights Says:

    Thanks for the reminder about eReaderIQ.

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