Kindle’s 10 most wanted: July 5, 2014
When I last wrote about this, back in August of 2010, the situation on “backlist titles” being in the Kindle store was quite different.
The backlist books are typically books that are at least a year old, although that’s a bit of a fluid definition. I’m a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager. We would get catalogs (yes, on paper) of books from publishers.
The front of the catalog would be the new titles…often with the splashiest ones first. A new Stephen King, for example, would be in the very front.
The older titles (which still sold) would be in the back of the catalog…they were the “backlist”.
Four years ago, there were about 650,000 titles in the USA Kindle store: now there are 2,663,833.
The books that I listed as being most discussed as wanted (based on my impressions of what I saw in the forums?
- Harry Potter (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) by J.K. Rowling: now available (technically through Pottermore, but you can buy them through the Kindle store
- To Kill a Mockingbird (at AmazonSmile) by Harper Lee: being released on Tuesday, July 8
- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (link not provided because the publisher blocks text-to-speech access**): available
So, all three of those are available.
Here are the ones I listed as most wanted back then, based on the list at
which I consider the most valuable resource on the web for Kindleers:
- Claudius the God and His Wife Messalina by Robert Graves: available
- And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmeyer: not available
- The Great Book of Amber by Roger Zelazny: while that particular omnibus is not available, several Zelazny Amber books are
- Sarum: The Novel of England by Edward Rutheford: available
- Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart: not available
- Night Train to Memphis by Elizabeth Peters: available
- Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman: available
- Crimes Against Liberty by David Limbaugh: available
- When Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman: available
- The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger: not available
As you can see, great progress has been made. Only three out of those ten are really not available (legally through the USA Kindle store), and then we have the Zelazny Amber situation…which I think we can consider to be unavailable, since I don’t think the ones available are the ones in that omnibus.
What are the top ten most wanted now?
#10: The Neverending Story
by Michael Ende
#9: Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart (repeat from above)
#8: The Belgariad, Volume 1 by David Eddings: the first one of the three books in this series is available…and can be borrowed through the KOLL (Kindle Owners’ Lending Library). The other two are not
#7: Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey: a number of other Pern books are available
#6: A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
#5: The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye
#4: Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKindley
#3: Mary Stewart’s Merlin Trilogy: these books were available (under the title “Legacy” at one point, but don’t appear to me now)
#2: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
#1: The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (hasn’t dropped in rank since I checked in 2010)
Some of you may be thinking that some of these are “classics” and should be out of copyright protection. That’s not the case. If they were, you can bet that there would be versions legally available in the Kindle store. When something is in “the public domain”, the public owns it: anybody can publish it without getting permission.
Eventually, all books (under the current rules) will fall into the public domain, but it could be a while. That’s especially true for authors who are still living…the current basic term is Life+70 years, at least for books first published in the USA since March 1, 1989. That can be stretched back to 1978, provided that the book had a proper copyright notice (I think we may be the only country with copyright rules which are this convoluted).
The Crystal Cave, for example, was published in 1970…if it followed all the rules (and it will have), it would fall into the public domain on January 1st of 2066, I think.
That doesn’t mean we will have to wait that long, though. 🙂
As you can see from the number which have been Kindleized since the 2010 list, deals do get made.
That’s the key thing.
Authors retain rights which they haven’t licensed.
If they haven’t explicitly licensed the e-book rights to somebody, no one can legally publish the book as an e-book (except the author)…even if they have licensed other rights.
That’s why you’ll see audiobooks of some of the “missing” title above…the audiobooks were negotiated, the e-books were not.
Prior to about 2005, it wasn’t common to license e-book rights. In the case of The Crystal Cave, it would have been very unlikely for anyone to license the rights back in 1970 for a medium which didn’t really exist yet. 🙂
In that case, a publisher would need to go to the author (or the author’s estate) and negotiate the rights…and often, negotiate them separately for different markets (although I do believe that global rights sales are becoming more common).
As you can imagine, that can be complex.
Under the current situation, we’ll get a bunch of books falling into the public domain in 2019 (books published in 1923…earlier books are already in the public domain).
However, you can count on there being a push to extend copyrights again.
Now that there is a market for older works (that really wasn’t true until we had media which could both store those works and make retrieval commercially viable), the rightsholders will want to be able to keep control of them.
Copyright terms have only gotten longer over the years…again, in part, I think, because of the improvements in technology.
Works published fifty years ago (1964) have a lot of commercial value still (think of a number of the Beatles’ songs, for example).
In 1964, how much commercial value was there for works published in 1914? Some, but the percentage of popular works from 1914 in 1964 is much lower than the popularity of 1964 works now in 2014.
In one of my most controversial posts, I explored the idea of making copyright permanent, in exchange for a considerable expansion of Fair Use rights:
Non-commercial uses, such as academic use in a classroom, would become much easier, while commercial rights would tend to stay out of the public domain.
I have to say, I think many of my readers hated the idea. 😉
Back to the list of the books that are the “most wanted” (to be Kindleized).
You can go to eReaderIQ and start a “watch list”. They’ll send you a free e-mail letting you know if a book you have listed has been Kindleized. There is no charge for that.
I’m not connected to that site except as a user, although we have had some correspondence…
What do you think? Are there any books you are particularly waiting to see Kindleized? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.
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* 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.