A copyright lawsuit for China’s largest e-book reader manufacturer is highlighting problems that are holding back development of the country’s e-book market.The company, Hanvon, is being sued by the Zhonghua Book Company for alleged copyright infringement of its Twenty-Four Histories and Draft History of the Qing Dynasty. The works are considered authoritative in the field of the nation’s pre-communist history. Hanvon said it obtained the legitimate copyright through a deal with the China Written Works Copyright Society, but Zhonghua has nonetheless requested $136,000 in damages.
Much overlooked in the recent fixation on the transition from physical books to e-books has been the cratering sales of backlist books. One of the mainstays of the six big publishing houses is the massive amount of subject nonfiction they produce.
For many years, Barnes & Noble (BKS) was attacking that base by producing its own no-name how-to, advice, and travel books under the Sterling imprint owned by B&N. But just as the bookselling giant was trying to undercut publishers, a new threat to these bread-and-butter books emerged in the form of the Internet.
The chair of the Society of Authors, Tom Holland, has hit out at publishers’ attempt to seize control over electronic rights, calling ebook deals that lock authors in for the duration of copyright “not remotely fair”.
Speaking at the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s annual conference last week, Holland urged authors to push for ebook royalties that are “considerably higher” than the standard of around 25%. Although Holland said the market for ebooks is only about 1% of the total UK market, it is “growing fast” and the Society of Authors believes that, given publishers will eventually have much lower warehousing and distribution costs for ebooks, royalties should be divided 50/50.
“Our civilization is decadent and our language — so the argument runs — must inevitably share in the general collapse.” – George Orwell, Politics and the English Language
Recently, one of the best remaining independent Toronto bookstores, This Ain’t the Rosedale Library, closed down and part of the problem with this sad passing is the same one that publishers are having; their old role as community centerpieces has been devalued. Online sales certainly didn’t help, but the traditional role of books as a focal point for shared cultural experience has died.