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Scribd and the Publishing Industry

  • April 1, 2009
  • Maya
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A few days earlier there was talk about major publishers partnering with Scribd to reach out to their consumers. But many are wondering what changes will take place in the publishing industry and whether Scribd will become the ‘YouTube of Books’.
Via guardian.co.uk

It might be a book lover’s dream, but it could prove a nightmare for the publishing industry: a “YouTube for documents” where you can download, among other things, free copies of the Harry Potter novels and the Booker prize-winning The White Tiger.

But there’s also a fair amount of content that’s been illegally uploaded, which is not news to the lawyer for JK Rowling, Neil Blair at the Christopher Little Literary Agency. “There’s two lots of things: one is JK Rowling books that people have just uploaded, and those are unauthorised and unlawful,” he says. “But people also write their own stories – fan fiction. As long as these are appropriate – ie not pornographic – and they put their own name next to it, then we don’t take any action.”

Via Times Online

A search of Scribd by The Times yesterday found copies of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Ken Follett’s most recent novel World without End among many bestselling titles, raising fears that the piracy affecting the music industry may have spread to books.
Scribd has many legitimate uses, and the company is testing book giveaways with some American publishers, including Random House. Tess Gerritsen’s book The Surgeon was posted on the site with permission, and was read 30,000 times in three weeks. “Her readers have typically been women in their forties and fifties; this was a chance to get the book in front of a broader audience,” Ms Nam said. However, other publishers are unimpressed. John Makinson, the chief executive of Penguin books, said that his company was not participating. “We do have a concern about the amount of free content on the web, and the impact that will have on the consumer’s perception of the value of books,” he said.

According to Priest the threat to copyright extends beyond the loss of a few sales. In a letter to writers’ magazine The Author he suggested that the threat is “not going to go away and it becomes a greater threat with every passing week … Pretending it doesn’t matter is not in my view an option,” he continued. “A few downloads here or there are not going to make a measurable difference to book sales, but treating the text as something that is available to be used or adapted in some unspecified way is a different matter.”

But are these fears misguided? Via techdirt:

However, this is the quote that struck me:

Peter Cox, a literary agent and editor of the Litopia blog, said: “These people are pirates. We don’t have to give in to this. We can’t afford to make the same mistakes the music industry did.”

Apparently Mr. Cox hasn’t been paying attention. The “music industry” (he means the recording industry) didn’t give in on this. It fought it consistently. And lost pretty much every battle — often making things worse for itself by simply never adjusting to the changing marketplace. So, Cox’s response is to follow their exact mistakes by “fighting” this? That’s exactly the mistake that the music industry made.

Instead, he might want to take a look at what folks like Paulo Coehlo discovered when he “pirated” his own books and saw sales jump. Or what Baen books has done. Or what tons of authors have found after they put their books online for free and combined it with a smart business model.

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1 Comments

  1. Anonymous April 1, 2009

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    Reply

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