Archive for the ‘Copyright’ Category

Round up #248: write your way to a Kindle Fire, “me-colored glasses”

April 4, 2014

Round up #248: write your way to a Kindle Fire, “me-colored glasses”

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

“I’m not at Liberty to pay…”

“‘By reducing our preferred position and eliminating some of our related rights, Barnes & Noble will gain greater flexibility to accomplish their strategic objectives,’ Mr. Maffei said in a statement.”
–quoted in a New York Times article by Michael J. De La Merced and Julie Bosman

Flexibility? Yes. Capability? No.

Yes, I’m sure all that money you were giving them was reducing their choices. It’s like a parent saying, “You don’t like my rules? Fine. Then you can just get an apartment on your own and live your own rules. Of course, you might have trouble finding someone who will rent to a ten-year old…”

I don’t really see how to spin this and make it a good thing for B&N, and neither can the stock market…following the announcement, B&N’s stock took a more  precipitous  dive than an Acapulco cliff diver. ;)

CNNMoney graph

That doesn’t mean that they won’t recover…but I would be very interested to hear what people think does mean that Barnes & Noble is going to get back to robust health.

I think this does make the continued existence of Barnes & Noble bookstores as we know them today less likely (and I’m speaking as a former manager of a brick-and-mortar bookstore).

The article was generally pretty good, but I doubt the folks at Books-A-Million liked this statement: “…Barnes & Noble, the nation’s last major bookstore chain”.

 Digitizing your paperbooks will be legal…in the UK

America’s copyright system is often relatively complex compared to many other countries’ systems.

I honestly don’t really expect us to lead on this front.

One could argue that it is due, in part, to us being so successful in creating intellectual property. Most countries in the world consume American media, even if we don’t return the favor in equal proportion. You can also see this in the use of our software.

So, I wasn’t surprised the the UK beat us to saying something that I’ve been hoping would get said here in the USA.

Starting 1 June 2014, it is legal to digitize your paperbooks (turn them into e-books) at home for your own purposes in the UK, according to this article by Olivia Solon

This decision wasn’t specifically about p-books to e-books, but it does cover them (it also covers things like “ripping a CD” to digital).

It doesn’t allow you to do that for other people, but that’s fine. If I knew it was legal here, I’d probably start digitizing a lot more of my books (I do public domain ones now…just started on that with my new Xcanex scanner, although I did it with a flatbed for a non-profit).

I don’t think this is much of a threat to the e-book industry. Not very many people are going to scan a book when they can buy one already done and nicely formatted. I think, as would be the case with me, that it would be books that aren’t available otherwise in most cases. Certainly, some hobbyists might scan the books instead of buying them…but it would be a bit like saying that people who build their own computers are a threat to HP. It just isn’t going to be that large a group.

I hope this inspires a similar decision in the USA…

Amazon Fire TV

My Amazon Fire TV (at AmazonSmile) should be here today. I meant to order it with one-day shipping, but apparently, in my haste (I would afraid they would sell out), didn’t click the button to switch it. That’s okay…I probably won’t really get to explore it until Saturday, and I’ll write more about it then.

Of course, many people don’t wait to explore it before they write about it.  :)

I was…intrigued with all of the 1-star reviews that showed up before almost anybody had the device. The vast majority of those were from people who didn’t have it yet.

1-star reviews for the Amazon Fire TV (at AmazonSmile)

A lot of the “reviews” (I don’t believe you can actually “review” something until you have viewed it) had to do it with it missing something the poster wanted.

That just seems very self-centered to me. Its like giving Baskin-Robbins a 1-star review because, out of the 33 flavors of ice cream they have, they don’t have Banana-Coconut-Mango…and that’s your favorite! So, it doesn’t matter if their service is excellent, prices are good, and the vast majority of people who go there like their ice creams…the place sucks! :)

Now, that’s not quite a fair comparison…arguably, at $99, Amazon is not a price leader on this (they are comparable to many other devices in the category, although not the the Google Chromecast). It does seem like a very narrow focus…seeing the world through “me-colored glasses”.

One of the most commonly mentioned ones, and one that Amazon even includes in the comparison chart, is

HBO GO (at AmazonSmile)

That also messes up the analogy, because that’s a popular “channel”…it’s more like Baskin-Robbins not having strawberry ice cream. To me, that wouldn’t mean BR should get a 1-star review…there would still be a lot of good in that place, and a 1-star review is as low as you can go at Amazon.

Notice, though, that I have a link for HBO Go? That’s because you can get it in the Amazon Appstore…for your Kindle Fire.

That means that, if you have both a

Kindle Fire HDX (at AmazonSmile: support a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

and an

Amazon Fire TV (at AmazonSmile)

you will be able to watch HBO GO through the AFTV, since you can mirror the Fire to it (display what’s on the Fire’s screen on your TV). I assume that will be true: I won’t be testing that specifically, since we don’t have HBO.

The app is free, by the way.

Equally worth noting: no reason to suppose the app won’t get added directly to the AFTV at some point.

I expect AFTV’s 3.1 star average to rise considerably in the next week, once the initial flood of negative reviews by people who don’t have it is countered. Don’t know where it will get, don’t know how good the experience is yet…but I think it has been front-loaded with negativity.

If you don’t have and don’t plan to get an AFTV, does this part of this post matter to you?

A bit…it’s making some changes on the site, and possibly pointing to some interesting strategic shifts.

First, the AFTV appears in the Kindle “family stripe”. That’s the thing at the top of a Kindle’s product page which shows you what other Kindles are available.

If you go to a Kindle Fire’s page, you now see the Kindle Fires…then a “show all device types” illustration, which includes a Fire, a Paperwhite…and an Amazon Fire TV.

I have said many times that I wish they hadn’t named the Fire a “Kindle”, since they are such different devices…I wish they had kept “Kindle” for dedicated EBRs (E-Book Readers).

While I had suggested the “Amazon Current”, I would have been much happier with the “Amazon Fire” rather than the “Kindle Fire”.  It has created a great deal of confusion, with people wondering why they can’t read their “new Kindle” in the sun as well.

This family striping seems to be a step away from branding everything as a “Kindle”, which I think may be a good thing.

Similarly, while the links to

Manage Your Kindle (at AmazonSmile)

still work, the page is now branded, “Manage Your Content and Devices”.

Students: write your way to a Kindle Fire

I mentioned this briefly, but wanted to call it out more.

Amazon has a nice

student guide


Timebound (The Chronos Files) (at AmazonSmile)

One of the elements there is a contest:

This lesson will allow your students to write an account of an American History event as seen through a CHRONOS historian. Students can submit their work here to enter to win one of 5 autographed editions of Timebound. One lucky student will win a Kindle Fire. Submissions must be received by 12/17/2014. For more information on the content visit:

This is, in my opinion, a good academic and creative contest. The rules will require some real research, and I see this as a legitimate school exercise.

What do you think? Should I cover the Amazon Fire TV at all in this blog? I do think I will do it some (not a lot), but I’m interested in your opinion. Will the USA follow the UK in legitimizing format shifting? Should they? What would be the impact? Were you ever given an assignment in school with a prompting question? If so, was it valuable? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

** A Kindle with text-to-speech can read any text downloaded to it…unless that access is blocked by the publisher inserting code into the file to prevent it. That’s why you can have the device read personal documents to you (I’ve done that). I believe that this sort of access blocking disproportionately disadvantages the disabled, although I also believe it is legal (provided that there is at least one accessible version of each e-book available, however, that one can require a certification of disability). For that reason, I don’t deliberately link to books which block TTS access here (although it may happen accidentally, particularly if the access is blocked after I’ve linked it). I do believe this is a personal decision, and there  are legitimate arguments for purchasing those books. 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Round-up #237: Bezos goes to college, stealing from yourself

January 30, 2014

Round-up #237: Bezos goes to college, stealing from yourself

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


One of my readers gave me a heads-up to this one in a private comment:

Wall St. CheatSheet article by Nathanael Arnold

You know those science fiction stories where a robot or computer decides the best way to serve homo sapiens is to protect it from its biggest threat…itself?

Apparently, a “highly automated” system at Digimarc, working on behalf of HarperCollins, has asked Apple to remove from the iTunes store e-books listed there to which HarperCollins has the rights…and which HarperCollins itself put there!

In other words, what is most likely happening here is that the system is looking for the books online, but doesn’t know where they are supposed to be.

That is one way to stop piracy! If you could stop a book from being distributed by anybody at any time in any way, there would be no piracy…or legitimate sales, for that matter. ;)

Thanks to the reader for the heads-up! I think you intended that to be private: if not, let me know and I’ll credit you here.

Amazon expands into…

One of \S/uperman’s powers, according to the old opening was (besides bending steel, etc.) was that the Kryptonian could “…change the course of mighty rivers”.

The Amazon, of course, is one of the mightiest rivers…and its e-tailer namesake is constantly changing its course.

In fact, anybody can change the course of a river: drop a rock in right next to the bank, and the river will flow around it, carving out a new spot.

That’s the way Amazon is…oh, it’s very hard to change where it has already been going (you know, except for online auctions) ;) , but it keeps going new places.

This year they may, according to this

Forbes article by Erik Kain

and other sources, release an Android game console for under $300.

“A console…really?” That seems to be what a lot of people are saying, given how much gaming is moving to mobile (phones and tablets).

My guess is that, if this happens, it will be far, far more than a gaming console.

Make it Miracast compatible, and it’s everything your Kindle Fire HDX is…on your big screen.

Videos? Sure. Websites? Absolutely. Your music? Check.

I can already mirror my

Kindle Fire HDX 7″ (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

on my TV using the

NETGEAR Push2TV (at AmazonSmile)

and while it isn’t super cheap (it’s around $50), it’s a lot less than $300.

My guess is that an Amazon set-top box would bring more than mirroring. It would likely bring a significantly interesting interface, with a lot of curation (suggesting things for you).

It would have to sync with Amazon, of course, and seamlessly with your Fire.

It could have Mayday on it! That could make it hugely attractive.

With the way Amazon has done things in the past, it’s possible that it would have some desired software ability that would be more exclusive to it originally. For example, I could see it being the way to manage your Collections in your Cloud initially. It could let you drag and drop books from one Collection to another, with the argument being that the big screen makes it more possible somehow.

Yes, some people who didn’t get that would be upset…but they likely wouldn’t lose sales because of it.

Interface would be an interesting question. Would it have gesture detection? Would they make hardware joysticks for it?

Would it do text-to-speech? You know, I haven’t tried that with my Push2TV! If that worked, I would definitely use it with the louder speakers while doing things in the house. I’ll let you know…

Pre-release update (yes, I checked this before I actually published the post): Eureka! I can use my Push2TV to display the text from my Kindle Fire HDX while my TV plays the text-to-speech! Putting the KFHDX into landscape mode makes the print quite large, but it means I can listen while doing things that take my eyes away from the screen. That may sound super-bookwormy to some of you, but I will definitely use this. It also won’t hurt to have some of the images in the books on the big screen…and mirroring allows that. You could pause on a map to take the time to examine it carefully, or a graph in a non-fiction book. Seeing some images more than life-size will also be entertaining. This is the sort of  serendipitous find I make when writing these posts that really makes me smile. :)

Update: this also means that we can read our Kindle Fires hands-free with “autoturn”, something people have wanted for a long time, while, for example, exercising or knitting. We’ve been able to turn down the volume on Kindles with text-to-speech (which “turns the pages”) for some time, but because we have variable speed (which can get quite fast) on the KFHDX, it will work better. This means that I can exercise with my KFHDX mirrored through the TV, the sound turned off, the TTS speed cranked up, and read while I work out…a whole new world! ;)

Amazon is also possibly going to expand into point-of-sales processing, according to this

CNET News article by Desiree Everts DeNunzio

and other sources.

This could actually be a very big deal. It’s not just that it would compete with Square, that little gadget that you see stuck on a cellphone or tablet to process your credit card (although it would do that, too).

I could see this going a lot more than that.

Picture this scenario:

You are shopping in a brick-and-mortar hardware store. A knowledgeable employee has helped you pick the right set of blinds for your guest room. That employee checks you out on a Kindle Fire…right there in the aisle.

Further more, you need some hardware to mount the blinds, and the store is out of it (or just doesn’t carry it). The store orders it from Amazon for you, it will arrive in a day or two (or maybe the same day, in the future, via drone), and the store gets a commission…or Amazon knocks off part of the processing fee for the credit card (which can be significant).

That’s what Amazon could do that other credit card processors can’t: add access to additional products, so the store doesn’t have to have as deep a stock.

That, in turn, could enable Amazon to charge lower processing fees.

Oh, and what if you could choose to pay in the store with your Amazon account? Even if the store doesn’t go through Amazon to fulfill your order, Amazon getting the information about what you are buying (and where) could be a big plus for it…and again, could lower processing fees.

We can already pay with our Amazon accounts at many websites…why not in brick-and-mortars?

There are a lot of interesting possibilities here…

One more potential expansion, which could be really disruptive for a major competitor (at least in one part of Amazon’s many businesses).

According to this

UC Davis News and Information post

the university has entered into a pilot program for students to buy things through Amazon.

University/College sales have been one of the relatively bright areas for Barnes & Noble. If that Amazon river gets diverted into college sales, it could result in a Carthaginian peace for Barnes & Noble and Amazon. ;) A “Carthaginian peace” (at least in the idiom) is basically when you make peace with your enemy…by destroying them. I actually thought the story had gone that a river was diverted to wipe out what was left of Carthage after the war, but I must be conflating mythologies.

At any rate, free delivery with the Amazon Student Prime program could mean that you don’t have to pay $10 for a Post-Its pad while you are in college any more.

This is just a pilot program, but if it works well…it could knock the last sturdy leg out from under Barnes & Noble’s three-legged (retail, digital, college) stool.

Marcus Books fundraiser this Saturday

I’ve written before about attempts to save Marcus Books in San Francisco from closing. It’s an historic bookstore…and there was an effort to get it officially designated as such.

Now, according to this

SF Weekly post by Jessica Nemire

there will be a fundraiser this Saturday, February 1st.

Here is more information about the event:

Keep It Lit’

You can also donate directly through the Marcus Books website:

What do you think? Would you buy a set-top box from Amazon, or are you about gadget-ed out? What would it have to have? Are traditional publishers too concerned about piracy? Are bookstores any more entitled to efforts to save them than any other kind of store? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Nominate a child to be given a free Kindle at Give a Kid a Kindle.

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Round up #232: B&N closings, get better Jeff Bezos

January 6, 2014

Round up #232: B&N closings, get better Jeff Bezos

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

Jeff Bezos airlifted from the Galapagos for medical emergency

Things have had a positive outcome, but this was a serious situation. I mention that, because there is a temptation to do jokes about this, which I am going to resist. Jeff Bezos has had a big positive impact on my life, and right now, I just wish Amazon’s CEO (Chief Executive Officer) a speedy recovery.

Jeff was apparently celebrating the new year in the Galapagos Islands. I’ve been there: amazing place! According to this

USA Today article by Alistair Barr

and other sources, Bezos had a kidney stone problem, and was helicoptered out by the Ecuadorian Navy to where the CEO’s private jet could rush back to the USA.

No surgery was required, and things look good.

There are a lot of non-surgical ways of dealing with kidney stones nowadays.

Best to Jeff Bezos and family!

I will comment on one thing…according to the article (and again, other sources), Jeff said, “Galapagos: five stars. Kidney stones: zero stars…”

That may confuse some people. It’s a reference to the rating system at Amazon…but you can’t give zero stars there (you have to go between one and five). I’ve seen people complain about that inability to give a zero. Obviously, buying a paper towel holder can’t have a negative effect on you like having kidney stones can, so perhaps that was the suggestion here.

Round of Barnes & Noble closures

It was quite a surprise recently when a local Barnes & Noble closed! There hadn’t been a big sale or anything, as far as I know…it was just gone. There is still one not too far away, but this is the one I would consider to be most local. Doing a quick Google search, looks like quite a few closed at the end of 2013 (I’ll link articles):

  • Two closed in Fort Worth, Texas…one of them had been open since 1996
  • One closed in Pasadena, California after doing business there for about twenty years
  • One closed in Pleasant Hill, California after 19 years…according to the article, it was the last new bookstore (as opposed to used books) in that town
  • One closed in Gainesville, Florida after about twenty years
  • One closed in Kahala Mall in Hawaii (the link to the story didn’t work)
  • One looked like it would close in Royal Oak, Michigan…the city appeared to be looking for other tenants
  • Despite an online petition, one closed in Tracy, California, where, interestingly (but unrelated…it does no retail business), an Amazon fulfillment center recently opened

For balance, here is a nice article which quotes the manager of a Barnes & Noble that just opened in Princeton, New Jersey.

Is this the beginning of the end?

Probably not…Barnes & Noble has often closed stores at the end of the year. Most of these stories seemed to mention the rents going up. That’s something that is going to happen, particularly as some things in the economy appear to be improving.

However, that would have been less of an issue if they’d been stronger.

Interesting also how many of these opened about twenty years ago…

Is Sherlock Holmes in the public domain? Judge makes a statement

I’ve written extensively in this blog about copyright and public domain. The latter is what happens when a book is not under copyright protection (most commonly, because the term has expired). The book then goes into the “public domain”…it is owned by the public. At that point, anybody can do anything they want with the book, without getting the permission of the (former) copyright holders.

It gets much more complicated when a character appears in a series of books, though. There may be some books which are still under copyright protection, and some which are in the public domain.

The Conan Doyle Estate has been quite protective of Sherlock Holmes, and people doing new works based on the character (the Robert Downey movie, Elementary on CBS, the BBC series) typically pay the estate a license.


Leslie Klinger was concerned with what the estate wanted, and challenged the control (at least over the characters as they appeared in what are now public domain works in the USA, ones published before 1923).

Here’s an article that summarizes it:

New York Times article by Jennifer Schuessler

What the estate argued was considered to be a stretch by some, but it is fascinating.

As I understand it, they basically said that works written about Sherlock Holmes are based on the “completed” character, which has to take into account things written after the 1923 cut-off…even if they don’t mention specific events from the later books.

I think I’ve come up with a good way to explain the argument.

When Superman started out, he didn’t fly…he could “leap tall buildings in a single bound”, but not actually fly. I’ve always thought that it showed brilliant management that DC allowed others to add to Superman’s “definition”. I wrote about that here:

When Superman wasn’t so super

However, for the sake of explanation, let’s pretend (and this is not true) that the Superman stories before he could fly were in the public domain, and the ones where he could fly weren’t.

Now, let’s further imagine that someone writes a story about Superman. In the story, Superman “arrives on the scene”, but it isn’t specified how. Wouldn’t you naturally assume Supes flew there? Sure, because that’s the Superman you know. I suppose that the writer could even have Superman say, “I just flew in from Metropolis.” That could have been in a plane, right? ;)

That was the basic argument, from what I can tell. You can’t write about Sherlock Holmes without benefiting from elements that are under copyright, even without mentioning them specifically.

While I still need to read

Judge Ruben Castillo’s statement (pdf)

completely, the judge ruled against that argument (again, based on my understanding). The judge’s carefully ruled in favor of Klinger in regards to pre-1923 elements and against in terms of post-1923 elements.

I believe there could still be appeals here. We don’t have our next round of books going into the public domain in the USA until 2019, by the way…but that’s not true everywhere.

What do you think? Did your local Barnes & Noble close at the end of the year? If it did, will you miss it? While this is not at all the case here, how dependent do you think Amazon is on Jeff Bezos? If Jeff wasn’t able to be the CEO, what kind of impact would that have on the company and on your perception of it? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Round up #204: Over 100 WSV audiobooks for $0.99 each, Amazon won’t phone home

September 11, 2013

Round up #204: Over 100 WSV audiobooks for $0.99 each, Amazon won’t phone home

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

“How Google Fights Piracy”

I believe that most people generally want to behave in a way that doesn’t harm others.

I remember talking to my (now adult) kid years ago, explaining why “The good guys always win.” What I said was that the average person wants to help the good guy (oh, I should mention, “guy” has always been a gender neutral term for me). So, if the bad guy is running down the street, the crowd will tend to want to help the good guy intervene or not lose track. If the good guy is running away from the bad guy, the crowd will tend to help the good guy get away.

So, it’s a numbers thing. ;)

There are a lot of things you can say philosophically, of course, and come up with different reasons why good guys tend to come out on top, or give me examples of when that hasn’t happened…but for a little kid, it made sense.

I’ve said here before that the best way to combat piracy (in this case, the distribution of unauthorized copies of a copyrighted book) is to have a legitimate copy of it easily available at a reasonable price.

I’m sure the average Kindle owner looks on Amazon first. If they don’t find the book there, they may Google it…and that’s when they run into pirate copies (perhaps not even realizing that they are pirated).

Well, it’s nice to see that Google agrees with me on that. :)

In this

Google PDF

they explain how Google fights piracy.

In their first point, they say

“The best way to battle piracy is with better, more convenient, legitimate alternatives to piracy…”

You may be interested in the rest of the “paper”…including how they work to keep pirate sites out of the top results, and how they “…process copyright removal requests for search results at the rate of four million requests per week with an average turnaround time of less than six hours”

Get audiobooks for use with Whispersync for Voice for ninety-nine cents

Update: Thanks to reader and frequent commenter Tom Semple for pointing out that the below promotion has ended (which happened after I wrote the post…some of my readers were able to take advantage of it).

Amazon’s been really, really promoting audio books lately…which might seem a bit counter-intuitive, since the newly announced Kindle Paperwhite 2 (KP2) doesn’t even have audio capability (so it can’t play them). That’s one reason I think there is an audio-enabled frontlit device coming at some point.

They’ve combined the p-book (paperbook) and audiobook sections at Amazon .com, and added audio samples to the books’ product pages.

Now, they are pushing Whispersync for Voice, which enables you to sight read part of a book, switch to an audiobook and pick up where you left off, then switch back. For more on that, see

This promotion includes this page:

Buy a Kindle Book, Then Upgrade with Narration for Just $0.99

You buy an e-book, say, The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger. Then, you can buy an audiobook at a typically greatly reduced price. In this case, Amazon’s price for the audiobook is $15.95, so it’s quite a savings.

Do I do this?

No, not really…I prefer text-to-speech to audiobooks, unless I’ve read the book already (I don’t like the narrator interpreting the characters for me…TTS is software, not a recording). I haven’t tested it recently, but when I had gotten an audiobook to use with WSV (Whispersync for Voice) it appeared to prevent me from using TTS.

I think most people prefer audiobooks to TTS, though, so I did want to let you know about this deal.

This offer is for a limited time, and may not apply in your country.

No Amazon phone this year

Thanks to a reader who sent me a heads-up to this

Bloomberg article by Brad Stone (and it’s been covered other places as well).

I’ve been referring to statements from Amazon’s Director of Communications, Drew Herdener, for about four years.

Herdener says there won’t be an Amazon phone this year…and that when there is one, it won’t be free.

Take that, internet rumor mill! ;)

I have a Collections follower

No, that doesn’t mean a collection agency is after me…darn these multiple-meaning words! ;)

While Amazon hasn’t announced it yet, I do think this has a lot of potential to be a “big thing”.

I’m having some fun just getting started (things have been super busy lately). I have three Collections there right now: A Fortean Education; Seventies Social Sci-Fi; and 1939: The Best Pop Culture Year Ever.

The trick to making this work for me was installing Amazon’s Collect button in Chrome (it doesn’t work in Internet Explorer). That lets me easily add any item to a Collection.

I would have a lot of fun putting together a Collection at the suggestion of a reader, so feel free to do that.

Don’t worry, I’ll be careful not to let this take up too much of my time. :) You come first…

If you have your own Collections there and would like me to follow you, please let me know.

One thing that has been taking some of my time is getting used to my new Galaxy S4. It has some great capabilities! I love that I can just say, “Text [a name] I’m on my way home,” and it does it (with an okay from me). You do have to get its attention, and you can choose your “wake up” phrase for that. I’m using, “Old man in the cave.” I’m guessing some of you know why. ;)

Frank Schaeffer: “Why I’m Risking My New Book by Self-Publishing Even Though I’m a Bestselling Author”

Okay, a lot of this

Huffington Post article

by Frank Schaeffer is plugging a new book, but it does have some good insight on why someone who had been successfully traditionally published would go the indie route. I think you can guess most of them, but one interesting statement is that tradpubs (traditional publishers) are holding on to book rights by keeping the book in print…by making it available in “print on demand”.

In other words, when the author license the rights for a book, the publisher can hold on to those rights (if that’s the deal that was signed) for as long as they keep the book in print (there might be other limitations).

However, it’s expensive to stock a slow selling book, in case a store wants it.

According to this, the work-around is to make it available by “print on demand”. You don’t print the book until somebody wants it.

I suspect literary agents are going to get a clarification on that in future negotiations…but in the meanwhile, other authors will see the same attractions that Schaeffer did to controlling the process, and switch over. I mean, they can sign up with Amazon and do print on demand themselves, if they want.

That doesn’t mean that big brand name authors are going to immediately go indie. I’m sure a lot of them feel loyal to their editors and publishers, and they can get nice advances and significant promotion.

Still, some of those midlist authors are going to become brand names…and will they sign with tradpubs then?

What do you think? Do you want to hear news about phones? I do that partially because for some people, that’s where they read e-books. Why do midlist authors need tradpubs at this point? Do you like audiobooks? If you do, who do you like to have read them? The author? A famous actor? A voice professional? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Update: thanks to regular reader and commenter Zebras for helping me make this post clearer.

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

Round up #199: bundles, B&N

August 21, 2013

Round up #199: bundles, B&N

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

Digital downfall! 

Okay, I would not want to be Barnes & Noble trying to compose this

Press Release on Q1 finances

Actually, I might…I do love a challenge. ;)

Maybe you could hire somebody like an old Catskills comedian to do it like a stand-up routine…

“Hey, it’s nice to see all the investors in the audience. You know, I was afraid this place was going to be like one of our stores…empty. Just kidding…revenues were only down 9.9%, which comes out to 111,000,000 bucks. With all those ones and  zeroes, it looks like our name on the internet. Speaking of digital, if you think our retail sales are bad, you should see our NOOK sales! Yeah, take a look at them…no, lower…lower…lower…yep, that’s them down there. Our NOOK sales were down 20.2% over last year. A 20% decrease…that’s like saying you have a perfect attendance record at work…if you don’t count Fridays. On the other hand, we only dropped $39 million there…so we lost almost $72 million less than we dropped in the bookstores: go, progress! You ready for the good news? Wait, wait, don’t get so excited…I didn’t say there was any good news, I just asked if you were ready for it. Actually, the college bookstores did have a 2.4% increase…up 5 meeeeeeellllllliooon dollars! Let’s see…five million up, compared to $111 and $39 million down: I’d do the math for you, but I couldn’t afford my algebra textbook after I paid ten dollars for a pack of Post-It notes in my campus Barnes & Noble…”



GIGAOM article by Laura Hazard Owen

does a nice job of analyzing the Q&A part of the investor call. Are they going to stop making tablets inhouse? Um…maybe not. They are committed to continuing with the NOOK side of the business…at which point, I’m all of the investors in the room snuck a sideways peek at the person next to them, to see if they were dumping the stock and making a break for the exit.

Owen included this quotation:

“At least one new Nook device will be released for the coming holiday, and further products are in development. At the same time, we will continue to offer our award-winning line of Nook products, including Simple Touch, Simple Touch with GlowLight, Nook HD and Nook HD+ at the best values in the marketplace today.”

I think we may continue to see reductions in NOOK hardware prices, which does exert a downward price pressure on Amazon…which the latter might choose to ignore, of course.

The USPTO wants your input on “Copyright Issues in the Digital Economy”

There is a debate going on right now about extending copyright terms.

This is going to be worth another, separate post from me, but I wanted to go ahead and give you the place to make your comments, if you want:

It relates to this


I plan to listen to that in the car today, after which I’ll write my response.

Listen to a PDF?

Yep. I recently bought

ezPDF Reader PDF Annotate Form

which has text-to-speech for PDFs. I actually finally spent some of my Amazon Coins on an app, and that was it and this is why. :)

Remember when a “bundle” in publishing meant newspapers tied together with kite string?

Many people bring up the idea of “bundling” e-books and p-books (paperbooks) in the Amazon Kindle forums.

The idea is that you would buy a p-book and get a free e-book, or vice versa.

That often comes from a position of  naivety: they think that Amazon can just give you a digital copy, I guess by scanning the p-book. They don’t understand (and there is nothing wrong with not understanding, as long as you are willing to learn) that Amazon pays the publisher for both the e-book and the p-book, and that in turn is part of how authors get paid.

However, a publisher (not Amazon) could work out a deal with the author that included both the e-book and the p-book…and some publishers (not a lot so far) are.

PM Press in Oakland is one, according to this

Publishers Weekly article by Judith Rosen

I have to warn you, though, when I went to the PM Press site to check it out, the home page had an NSFW (Not Safe For Work) image right at the top.

I tried to find something about their Paperback Plus! program, and they don’t seem to be promoting much. When I searched for Paperback Plus, I did find these eleven results:[search]=paperback+plus&s[title]=Y&s[short_desc]=Y&s[full_desc]=Y&s[sku]=Y&s[match]=all&s[cid]=0

So, you buy a paperback, and get a free e-book copy.

Now, honestly, I’m not sure to whom this appeals. I don’t want p-books any more, even for free. I’m sure I’m not the only person in that category. I love the ones I have, but I don’t want more in my house and I don’t like the ecological impact of the manufacturing process.

Also, I’m never quite sure what prevents somebody from simply doing a deal like this, and then selling the p-book. One barrier is that you would pay more for this combo than you might pay for the e-book alone, but I still don’t quite get it. It used to be different with DVDs and CDs, because there was a clear division in the player. You wanted a physical version to watch/hear on your superior, non-portable hardware, and a convenient digital version. I think increasingly, though, people don’t want the CDs or DVDs either, and for the same reasons that many of us don’t want the p-books.

Alexander Turcic reported in this

mobileread post

that the University Press of Kentucky is doing something interesting. You send them a picture of you holding the p-book, and they send you a pdf of it for free. Again, a kind of bundling…and I’m guessing they can use your picture for promotional purposes, although I haven’t checked.

I don’t expect bundling to become commonplace, except on expensive books, where it will be just part of the luxury service.

What do you think? How good/bad does the Barnes & Noble report look to you? Do you want both an e-book and a p-book when you buy something? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

Update: bonus deal

I meant to include this this morning. :)

End of Summer Savings: Kids & Teen Kindle Books up to 75% off

Right now, there are 149 titles in there, and there are some good and “brand name” choices. They don’t say how long this will last, and it may not be available in your country, so as always, check the price before you click that Buy button.

Good time to look for gifts for the holidays…you can delay delivery.


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

Round up #186: fewer publishers, fewer books?

July 12, 2013

Round up #186: fewer publishers, fewer books?

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


You never know what is going to show up at

On July 10th, I got two new dictionaries, which were labeled in Chinese.

Google translation translates the name as “Modern English Dictionary”.

Not quite sure what these are, specifically…are they for when Chinese speakers switch to English on their Kindles, so they get the definitions in Chinese? I don’t think so…if you read Chinese and can check them out, I’d appreciate it.

These are likely to spark some threads in the Amazon Kindle forums about “books I didn’t order”.

Just to be clear, all of these foreign language dictionaries in MYK are not on your actual device, unless you download one. They are there so that the Kindle can function as advertised. If you switch your interface to a different language, the appropriate dictionary will then be downloaded, giving you the in-book lookup.

There are people who get mad because they delete them from MYK, and then they show up again. Yes, the Kindle (service) is basically repairing itself…you can think of the dictionaries as (loosely) part of the Kindle operating system…on a software update, I think it checks to see if the dictionaries are available, and if they aren’t, it replaces them.

If you don’t like them, just leave them alone. As you buy more items, they’ll get pushed down the list (when it is the default sort of most recent date first). Eventually, you won’t see them, unless you really dig for them. If you delete them, they’ll get moved back up to the front the next time they are restored.

These two must be new, although I already had a Chinese dictionary and user’s guide.

Stored magazine back issues are for the life your subscription

I wrote about subscription item improvements I’d like to see, and that led me to finding out about a huge new feature from Amazon. I’ve updated the other post, but I know a lot of people don’t see those updates. Sometimes, round-ups are used for just this purpose…to update you on a story.

The change, which appears to have happened since June, is that Amazon stores the back issues of your Kindle Newsstand magazines for you at that MYK page. I can go back and download any of the twenty issues of National Geographic which have been published since we got the subscription in 2011. That didn’t use to be true…but it is nice. :)

You can only get ones that far back through MYK…the Cloud tab on your Fire, for example, won’t show you that many.

The art and the artist: Orson Scott Card edition

We’ve talked before about

The art and the artist

The question there is do you judge a book by the qualities of the person who wrote it? If someone holds an opinion that is diametrically opposed to your own, and that opinion does not appear in the book, would the fact that the person had that  opinion  still make you less likely to read it?

We’re seeing this right now with Orson Scott Card. I mentioned back in March that I thought there might be protests about the movie based on Card’s popular book, Ender’s Game.

There are…calls for a boycott, in fact.

I thought Card’s response was interesting. You can read the statement in this

Entertainment Weekly article by Grady Smith

Essentially, Card says, “I lost on this issue, and it isn’t part of the book.”

First, Card describing the issue itself as now “moot” (that’s the exact word) is a big deal…this is someone who was an active advocate of one position.

Second…the question becomes, are you going to punish not only the person who had the idea, but everybody who depends on the success of the movie, because Card thinks differently than you do on an issue…if Card no longer is trying to make society conform to that different point of view?

I have to admit, I’m feeling a bit trepidatious writing about this, because I really don’t want this to be about this specific issue, and I”m concerned that I’ll get very emotional responses on one side or the other. As readers, though, we just have to consider…do we judge the art by the artist, and is that fair?

Will Barnes & Noble survive as a bookstore?


Businessweek article by Matt Townsend

lays out the question nicely, saying:

“Bookstores Not Dead Yet as Riggio Bets on Barnes & Noble”

I’ve written a piece for you that will appear later this year in this blog about how to save big bookstores, but this article does talk about the current state and immediate future.

Why hasn’t Barnes & Noble named a new CEO? Is it because they are about to splinter or at least really reorganize with Leonard Riggio buying back the trade bookstores?

Could be…

And then there were five…

Many people have been writing about the completion of the merger between Random House and Penguin. The Big Six trade (those are the books you would buy in a bookstore…not textbooks and such) publishers becoming the Big Five.

There are serious talks that could make it the Big Four.

Then, three…two…one…?

Eventually, do we get a Rollerball syle megacorporation just named, “Publishing”?

I thought this was a good discussion of why reducing the number of publishers may be bad for the public:

New York Times article by Boris Kachka

Mergers make an industry more efficient and powerful, which can be good for the industry…but they reduce competition, which can be bad for the customers (and the authors, in this case). Companies don’t (generally) bid against themselves for a book deal…so authors can’t get as big advances. The recent Apple Agency Model decision made it clear that publishers don’t compete with each on price…but they do compete over authors and agents. The fewer competitors you have, the fewer chances you have to take.

It might seem like you could take more chances, since there are fewer people who might take advantage of your failures. However, I think it’s more that you have to be more sure when there is more competition. There are five of you. You have a limited amount of money. You all have a pretty good idea of the value of books by certain brand name authors. You’ll go up to a certain point for it, and that’s it.

There are also some unknown quantities…new authors out there. With five of you, you’ll take a chance on some them…they might hit big, which could tip the  equilibrium. With only two of you? There’s more room for you to get the brand name books…the competition isn’t as stiff. You don’t have to experiment with unknowns…there is room for both of you with the knowns.

I think we’ll see more diversity in the sources for books, especially from indies (independent publishers) in the future. I also think we’ll get books published by entities that don’t do books now. Every cable channel (gosh, there’s a techno-specific term that may become obsolete), every website, every blog, every food manufacturer…they may all become publishers.

Maybe that’s why “Big Guy” mergers are attractive…they want one big company that becomes the only place those brand name authors can get the service they are used to having.

Yep, that might work…until the new crop of brand name authors, raised in a disintermediated world (one without publishers…direct from authors to readers, perhaps through e-tailers like Amazon), decide they don’t need your marketing and legal departments.

New study suggests copyright makes books disappear from the market

Let me first say that I have not yet read this

Research Paper by Paul J. Heald

but I intend to do that.

I’ve talked here before about what I call “The Well” (no, not the old computer system). It’s that period between 1923 and about 2005. There have been relatively few e-books (legally) available published in those years.

That’s because books published earlier than that in the USA are in the public domain (not under copyright protection) in the USA, and e-book rights weren’t commonly negotiated before about 2005.

For the books in the middle, then, a publisher would typically have to find the author and negotiate the e-book rights…which could be complex.

As I said, I will read the article, but the blogosphere summaries people have suggest that the idea is that copyright is keeping those books from being available.

Well, I might argue that books after about 2005 are available partially because of copyright. :)

Certainly, if there was no copyright at all, everything would be in the public domain. Would there be as many things, though, since it would (reasonably hypothetically, in my opinion), be harder to make a living with those books?

I’m looking forward to reading the paper and seeing what it really says…

What do you think? Will there be Barnes & Noble stores around in five years…that don’t just sell coffee and games? ;) Should we judge the art by the artist? Would we have more e-books if we didn’t have copyright? Are fewer publishing companies a good thing for the industry…and for readers? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

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

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

April 14, 2013

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

You can go to


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.

Re-imagining copyright

March 27, 2013

Re-imagining  copyright

Maria A. Pallante, the Register of Copyrights, recently spoke before Congress about the future of copyright:

The Register’s Call for Updates to U.S. Copyright Law

The transcription linked above is fairly short. I’ve read it, and I had a couple of people direct me to it as well (thanks for that…even if I’ve already found something, I appreciate getting a heads up).

There are certainly interesting things in this Federal document. I’m going to reproduce a couple of paragraphs here:

“A central equation for Congress to consider is what does and does not belong under a copyright owner’s control in the digital age. I do not believe that the control of copyright owners should be absolute, but it needs to be meaningful. People around the world increasingly are accessing content on mobile devices and fewer and fewer of them will need or desire the physical copies that were so central to the 19th and 20th century copyright laws.

Moreover, while philosophical discussions have a place in policy debates, amending the law eventually comes down to the negotiation of complex and sometimes arcane provisions of the statute, requiring leadership from Congress and assistance from expert agencies like mine. The list of issues is long: clarifying the scope of exclusive rights, revising exceptions and limitations for libraries and archives, addressing orphan works, accommodating persons who have print disabilities, providing guidance to educational institutions, exempting incidental copies in appropriate instances, updating enforcement provisions, providing guidance on statutory damages, reviewing the efficacy of the DMCA, assisting with small copyright claims, reforming the music marketplace, updating the framework for cable and satellite transmissions, encouraging new licensing regimes, and improving the systems of copyright registration and recordation.”

However, while the Register says that “…Congress does not need to start from scratch…”, I wanted to do just that.

I’m going to free us from the requirement to think about what could pass, and what is technically possible, and ask us just to re-imagine copyright. I’m going to act as if there had never been copyright, and look at the idea afresh.

After all, the original concepts of copyright largely had to do with protecting people who made maps. There was a lot of risk in mapping a coast, and if you couldn’t benefit from it (since other people just reproduced your map and sold it), there would be a lot less incentive for people to invest in the enterprise. Certainly, people would still have explored, but it wouldn’t be likely to produce the kinds of relatively accurate maps that other people could use.

So, let’s start at the very beginning.

Someone creates something intangible, a book, a song, which can be consumed by others.

Why should the government be involved in what happens next?

What are the societal benefits in creating law which controls what happens to that work?

Well, there are a couple of things.

The first thing we could say is that there is just a moral right that the person who created the work should have control over how it is used. In that argument, we are protecting people from unreasonable exploitation by others.

We do pass a lot of laws for that reason. For example, if someone is a “Peeping Tom”, that’s illegal. There doesn’t have to be any monetary use of that…the observer doesn’t have to sell, or even record, images of you for it to be a crime. We just say that you have the right to that privacy, and someone who violates that right can be charged with a crime. We could think of copyright the same way: you created that work, and you should get to control who consumes it.

The other big argument is an advantage to the economy.

That says that there is a plus to the society in people creating something, and that they won’t tend to do it without the ability to make money from it (this is akin to the map argument).

Would somebody spend $100 million to make a movie if there wasn’t a way to make that money back?

Would someone spend two years researching a non-fiction book, if they couldn’t be compensated?

This one suggests that copyright makes it more likely for valuable ideas to get into societal use, even if that use is controlled by the creator of the work. If you can’t make money with that documentary, would you share it with other people the way movie makers do now?

While emotionally, the moral argument is powerful to me, I think I would tend to set up a government system based on making money. The taxes from that clearly benefit the society, and an economic motive is going to encourage production and risk.

Here’s my first new copyright postulate:

If you create something, you have the right to make money from it.

Now, current copyright recognizes something called “Fair Use”.

U.S. Copyright Office – Fair Use

When you look at the elements of Fair Use, it currently suggests that there are times when your right to control your material is  overridden  by a societal good…such as criticism of your work, or teaching (within limits).

I’m going to expand this in my thinking.

Here’s my second new copyright postulate:

If what someone does does not impact your ability to make money on your work, you do not have control over it.

This is sweepingly broad, and would be a big change. It would create a lot of arguments when there was transmission involved from one person to another, but it would remove a lot of controversies over personal use.

The burden would be on the rightsholder to prove that making money was impacted.

For example, let’s say you have a p-book (paperbook). You want to scan it and turn it into an e-book for your own personal use. While many people assume that’s legal, and it may be, that isn’t clear.

Under my re-imagined copyright, the rightsholder has to prove that you would otherwise have bought an e-book if you couldn’t do that. There isn’t a presumed control over every copy produced, just a control over making money from your work.

This is, incidentally, how a lot of readers seem to think it should work (that doesn’t make it right, of course). If they bought the book once in paper, they think they are entitled to a free copy in e-book form. The same could be said for going from a hardback to a paperback…if you wouldn’t have bought the paperback, should it be okay for you to photocopy the book and reproduce it in a more convenient form?

I need to be very clear that I am not advocating these changes, I’m just thinking about them.

Under this new concept, it isn’t reproduction that matters: it’s consumption.

Could it be worked out that the rightsholder collects a fee every time you read a book? In other words, you buy the book, pay for reading it the first time, don’t pay anything more if it sits around in your archives (on your bookshelves in the paper world), then pay for it again if you read it again years later?

As you can see, I’m not worried about the technological implementation in this “thoughtabout”. I’m looking for the guiding principles.

What about somebody licensing/buying a book from you, and then distributing it for free over the internet?

Hm…if the purchaser could be charged for everybody who read that free copy, that could work.

Somebody reads it, the rightsholder gets paid.

Ideally, of course, the rightsholder gets paid before somebody reads it.

That might be the best way to go, in this hypothetical world. The rightsholder is paid per use.

Of course, that would mean that there would be some sort of record of who was using what, and people would resist that…but I’m not concerned with what’s practicable right now.

Another major issue is whether creative works eventually belong to society at large. I’ve asked this question before:

Should copyright be permanent?

Under my first postulate, if copyright is purely to protect an economic value, then you give up copyright if you are not using it to make money.

That sends shivers down my spine in a bad way…I want artists to be able to control their art, emotionally. However, is that what the government should be doing?

We do this already with patents…if you don’t use your patent, you can lose it.

We could say that if your book isn’t available to the public (“in print”, in the old parlance), or if you aren’t making a good faith effort to make it available, you lose control over it.

What about educational use? If the educational use doesn’t cut into the market, then it would be allowed in this new conception. If it did, if the students don’t buy the work because they can read for it free whenever they want to as part of a class, that would fail the test.

Oh, those might be some complicated court cases in the beginning!

Actually, I think these two postulates create an interesting balance. You control your creative works as long as you are using them to make money, and any other use of them is okay.

What do you think? I’m not terribly happy with this myself, and can poke holes in it. :) I just really want to rethink things. We shouldn’t have copyright which is based on individual ownership of physical containers, because that’s just not the entire future.

Do you think copyright should take into account art for art’s sake? Should educational use get any special and separate rules? Parody is legal in the USA, not legal in Canada…what should it’s status be? What do you think of what Register Pallante has actually suggested? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

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

Supreme Court rules in First Sale Doctrine case

March 20, 2013

Supreme Court rules in First Sale Doctrine case

The Supreme Court has made an important ruling on copyright.

It was getting quite a bit of coverage yesterday, and I was seeing some wide-ranging guesses about what it might mean. I wanted to wait until I’d read the 74 page document…so you don’t have to. ;) If you want to read it, you can, and I have to say, it’s one of the more entertaining and clearly written legal statements I’ve read. I’m not a lawyer, by the way…just an interested layperson, but I have read a fair amount on copyright.

I’ve written about the “First Sale Doctrine” before, but a quick summary of it is important to understanding this case.

Essentially, it is a limitation on the exclusive rights granted to a copyright owner. It says that your rights to “distribution” are exhausted after the first sale of a copy of the book (I’m really paraphrasing here).

In other words, the copyright owner gets to control distribution of the work (within limits), until a copy of it is bought by somebody. That copy (not the work itself) is the property of the person who bought it, who can then resell it/destroy it and so on without the copyright owner’s permission.

I think it’s easiest to refer to the book as the words the author wrote (and the editor edited and so on) and the “container” of those words…the paper on which the book is printed. If you buy a copy of a paperbook, you own the container, and you can do what you want to do with that. You don’t own the words the author wrote, so you can’t photocopy the book and sell it on line, for example.

When you buy a license for an e-book (which is what you buy in a Kindle store), you own that license just as much as you own a copy of a paperbook. However, what you download is not the same thing as buying a paper container. Your license will allow you to download the book (typically to multiple devices) in order for you to read it, but that doesn’t exhaust the copyright owner’s rights in the same way as buying a paperbook copy. You agree to terms of the license, which may include you not redistributing the work.

This decision does not allow you to resell an e-book which you have licensed (although arguably, if you bought a legally produced e-book on a CD at a garage sale, you could resell it….but that form of distribution is rare, certainly).

This case really addressed a pretty narrow issue: does the First Sale Doctrine’s ability to override the exclusive rights given under copyright (which includes importation) apply to books legally manufactured abroad?

Let me summarize this case a bit. It is not an issue of somebody having been overseas, bought a book in a bookstore while on vacation, and selling that book to a used bookstore in the USA later.

This was clearly a case of the person importing the books to the USA with the intent of making a profit.

The ruling says:

“Respondent, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., an academic textbook publisher, often assigns to its wholly owned foreign subsidiary (WileyAsia) rights to publish, print, and sell foreign editions of Wiley’s English language textbooks abroad. Wiley Asia’s books state that they are not to be taken (without permission) into the United States.When petitioner Kirtsaeng moved from Thailand to the United Statesto study mathematics, he asked friends and family to buy foreign edition English-language textbooks in Thai book shops, where they sold at low prices, and to mail them to him in the United States. He then sold the books, reimbursed his family and friends, and kept the profit.”

Kirtsaeng apparently had a DBA (Doing Business As), and sold hundreds of books this way. For me, this was clearly an import business. That doesn’t necessarily impact the decision, but I think it’s important to realize that this was a case of someone operating a commercial venture, not someone who was just a reader selling a book after finishing it.

What Wiley (the publisher) had done was publish a cheaper version of the book in Thailand, for the Thai market. They had included a statement in the book that it was not to be taken without permission into the United States.

The question boils down to this: does the USA’s First Sale Doctrine apply to those books manufactured outside the USA and then brought here and sold?

If it does, Kirtsaeng was fine. If it doesn’t, Kirtsaeng was infringing on the rights of Wiley to control importation of legally produced copies.

The Court’s ruling, and the dissent, really hinge on these five words: “lawfully made under this title”. The “title”, in that case, is basically US copyright law (not the title of the book).

Does it mean “made subject to the conditions of US copyright law” or “made in a jurisdiction of US copyright law (i.e. the USA)”?

The majority decision said that it meant under the conditions…there was no geographical barrier to First Sale Doctrine (for secondary sales happening in the USA).

Judge Ginsburg wrote the dissenting opinion (it was 6 to 3), arguing that the geographical limitation does apply.

I think those dissenting opinions are often the most interesting…but I tend to think that in life, too. :)

The Court appears to have reversed something it said (not something it ruled) in an earlier case. That lead to one of the funnier lines in the ruling:

“Is the Court having once written dicta calling a tomato a vegetable bound to deny that it is a fruit forever after?”

Here’s how I would read this:

Wiley thought it was following what the Court had indicated previously by having two different prices for two different markets, and that it would be able to enforce that.

Now, the Supreme Court says that’s not the case…once somebody buys that legal copy abroad, the copyright owner’s rights are exhausted (that’s called “international exhaustion”)…they no longer have control over sales of that container.

What are the implications of this?

Publishers may not be able to have two prices for two markets for p-books in the same way any more, and that could be a real problem for them. It could logically mean that prices in Thailand shoot up to match the USA (or at least to account for those possible USA resales).

The Court acknowledges that:

“…Wiley and the dissent claim that a nongeographical interpretation will make it difficult, perhaps impossible, for publishers (and other  copyright  holders) to divide foreign and domestic markets. We concede that is so. A publisher may find it more difficult to charge  different  prices for the same book in different geographic markets. But we do not see how these facts help Wiley, for we can find no basic principle of copyright law that suggests that publishers are especially entitled to such rights.”

In other words, “hard cheese”. ;)

The Supreme Court acknowledges that it’s a problem for Wiley in the future, but hey, it’s not the Court’s problem. :)

I do not think the decision makes it more likely that we’ll be able to re-sell e-books (although there are other things that may make that possible…see Patent suggests Amazon could create used e-book market.

I do think that there are other countries that won’t like this decision (partially because we appear to be flipping on the issue of international exhaustion), and that it may drive up prices outside the USA.

What do you think? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

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

Little Orphan E-books

March 15, 2013

Little Orphan E-books

I’ve written a number of times in the past about “orphan books”.

Those are ones that are still under copyright, but where potential publishers can’t find anybody with whom to negotiate for the license to publish the book, so it stays unavailable to the public.

In fact, orphan books regulation was one of the things I mentioned a couple of years ago in

Five things the USA can do to help e-books stimulate the economy

I keep hoping to see legislation passed that would find a way around the dilemma and thereby legally get more older books into the market.

Well, according to this

Publishers Weekly article

it appears that it won’t happen soon.

The Copyright Office has recognized that orphan works represent “…a major cause of gridlock in the digital marketplace”.

You can read comments submitted when the Copyright Office raised the issue in late 2012


It’s obviously a tricky issue, but I do think the weight is falling towards some sort of solution, and that we’ll get it eventually.

There are, in a sense, four strong positions at work here.

One is basically the creators’ rights to control the use of their content (within copyright limits), even if that means the public doesn’t have access to it. It says that the principal of ownership of intellectual property is supreme, and even when the creator of the work can not be contacted, actions can not be taken without permission.

A second is an economic driver. There is money to be made and sales are being lost because a book can’t be republished…even though people want it. The publishers with this position are not saying that the author shouldn’t be compensated if they can be found. They are saying that if the author can’t be found after due diligence, the book should be able to be published, and the author will get paid if they show up and claim (and prove the right to) royalties.

A third position is the one that says that society has the right to literature and nonfiction works created within it, after reasonable compensation has been made to the author. This doesn’t necessarily say that there shouldn’t be copyright at all, but that, when in doubt, a book should be made available, not withheld.

The fourth one is an interesting fork in interests. This is the strengthening of Fair Use, in this case meaning that being able to read a book from a library might be okay when publishing it for profit isn’t. That puts the libraries potentially in a position of arguing against orphan work release. If the libraries have the books and the bookstores don’t, it’s a plus for the libraries.

I have explored the idea of much broader Fair Use before. I suggested in one of my least popular articles ;)

Should copyright be permanent?

that it might be possible to make “societal benefit use” free, in exchange for permanent copyright for commercial purposes. A school would be able to use the latest pop hit in a classroom in order to analyze the music without paying a royalty, for example.

One proposed solution to orphan works is to create a collective registry, where royalties are paid into a big pot (if you can’t find a rightsholder) and sit around waiting for someone to claim them.

That does amount to publishing without permission, and you can easily see how it could create a huge expensive  bureaucracy  that becomes a massive and significant entity in itself. It could have millions of dollars that just sat there, while every once in a while, an author (or a descendant…copyright extends beyond death, generally) showed up and collected a few bucks from it.

I’m not sure what the right answer to this is, but I think we’ll find one in the next ten years. I know that copyright infringement prosecutions can be a pretty profitable “business”, and that might be something else that works against orphan books legislation.

Years ago, I knew someone who said they made their living this way.

The person was a lawyer. They’d go out to local bars, and write down the songs that the band played. They’d get contact information for the band.

The lawyer would send a bill for the royalties.

The band would pay up (being threatened with much more onerous consequences if they didn’t), and the lawyer would turn it over to the rightsholders, getting paid what amounted to a “bounty” for the work.

The lawyer owned a decent house…

What do you think about this? I think the broader question is, how does copyright need to be reformed generally, if it does? It is virtually impossible to control reproduction and distribution at this point…very different from what it was even fifty years ago (much less when copyright was conceived). Does making something legal which was illegal result in an ability for the creator to get compensated (which in turn results in taxes for the government)? Is there a parallel to legalize drugs…the government doesn’t profit from illegal drugs (and indeed, spends a lot of money trying to enforce laws), but makes a lot of money from legal substances (like alcohol and tobacco)? Of course, the drugs are a different story, because they also can cause expenses for the government (in healthcare, for example). How would you fix copyright, if you think it is broken? Feel free to let me and my 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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