For many years now, if a book goes out of print authors have been allowed by their contracts to ask their publishers for their copyrights back. That way they could try to have it reissued by another publisher. Until recently, that has meant that if a book was unavailable in at least one format — hardback, trade paperback or mass market paperback being the most common — or if sales fell below a minimum annual threshold, it was deemed out of print.
With the advent of technologies like print-on-demand, publishers have been able to reduce the number of back copies that they keep in warehouses. Simon & Schuster, which until now has required that a book sell a minimum number of copies to be considered "in print," has removed that lower limit in its new contract.
So,in effect, this means that as long as a consumer can order a book through a print-on-demand vendor, that book is still considered to be "in print," no matter how few copies it sells.
The Authors Guild, a trade group that says it represents about 8,500 published authors, is urging writers and agents to exclude the publisher from book auctions because of it.
In an article in the New York Times, Adam Rothberg, a spokesman for Simon & Schuster, said that the publisher was acknowledging advances in technology that made it easier for readers to order books on demand. “We’re anticipating that it’s only going to get better and that this is the best way to make our authors’ books available for consumers on a large-scale basis over the long haul,” Mr. Rothberg said.
The agent David Black said, however, that in reality, if a book is available only through print-on-demand, “an author’s book is going to be available in dribs and drabs.”
He added: “If there is the possibility that I can take this book and place it somewhere else where somebody is going to publish it more aggressively than on a print-on-demand basis, shouldn’t I have the opportunity to do that?”
Simon & Schuster said it would continue to be willing to talk with authors who want their rights back regardless of the change in contract language.
Read more at New York Times, 5/18/07
Posted by P. Kaufman at May 19, 2007 4:34 PM