E-rights – The Global Perspective

06 May 2011 12:59 PM | Digital Rights Committee (Administrator)
As we all meet at the many International Book Fairs, the conversations invariably go to e-rights. While the US is now facing close to 50% sales for many new books in e-book sales and the ones in the other English speaking countries are nipping at our heals, the translation conversation internationally is quite different.

Our conversations revolve, not on the sales of now, but the potential ones of the future. Why, we then ask, should we grant you rights now? Many answer that they need the rights to be able to prevent piracy. Without this right, they have no legal basis to fight the e-pirates. With it they can both send cease and desist letters as well as provide a legitimate version of sought after content. But what if your country is one of the leading sites of the pirates? This question gives pause.

A number of countries including Spain, Brazil and Italy are trying to create a consortium of publishers who will then create and distribute out their content. They have interesting terms that restrict how low they can price their books - hoping to avoid the price precipices we have fallen off in English speaking countries. Whether these groups will be successful in administering this endeavor is to be seen.

Many EU countries face higher taxes for e-books as opposed to print books and are trying to pass laws to protect e-books like they do print. The country passes the law and the EU declares it invalid. The war is not over.

Another big question is, as you can imagine, about rates. The US publishers have been so public about their e-book royalty standard of 25% that many countries will start there. One option we could be suggesting to break the 25% logjam are escalators. Why not? We have them for print books. And we know already where those tiny figures on sales can get to very quickly. Yes, you do not have the content right now to interest the average reader in your country, but, there will be a tipping point (Thanks Mr. Gladwell) and then sales can skyrocket. We need to be prepared.

We, as US agents are in a unique position. We have seen our e-book market grow from a speck to half our business. The International community is looking at our successes and mistakes and is trying to do it better. Now is the time to help them create standards that we know can stand the tests of time and, most importantly, growth in the market.
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