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Old 12-01-2007, 04:48 AM   #1
Arek_W
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Will competition among EReaders force Sony to sell books abroad?

So, got fed up today with converting my books into Sony Reader, logged in into Sony support page and asked them if they have any plans on opening Connect to EU buyers ? This is not normal to continue with this US restriction on EBooks sales. Argument, more devices available on the market with some selling soon books outside of the US .
I like my Sony, i dont want Kindle as dont need the fireworks, just want to read books.
The most histerical thing about it is that I want to pay, and Sony does not want it
Anyone thinks that there will be an answer? is there a chance they may open up?
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Old 12-01-2007, 05:51 AM   #2
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The problem isn't Sony's -- it is a publisher problem. Publishers in one country license their books sometimes to publishers in other countries. In other situations, authors sign contracts with a publisher in one country and retain the rights to sign separate deals with publishers in other countries. So while an author may have a contract with Random House in the United States, he or she may have a contract with [supply name of British publisher here] for sales in the United Kingdom and may have yet another contract with a publisher in France and a different contract with a publisher in Hong Kong.

So Random House is not able to sell that author's books in the United Kingdom or France or Hong Kong (or any country where the author has signed a contract with a different publisher).

So the Sony Connect web-site is restricted to selling to United States addresses only (which they verify by requiring a United States address on the credit card on file with the account) since the books they sell come from publishers who have contracts with the authors to sell their books in the United States.

What will eventually have to happen is ebook sellers will have to work out license deals in different countries and then figure out how to sell the appropriate edition of a book for each country a customer comes from. I can't begin to imagine the legal nightmare this will entail.

What might happen is that publishers will eventually realize there is a critical mass already reached in the ebook marketplace to make it worthwhile for them to sell directly, bypassing the Sony Connect (or Amazon) online stores.

That way Publishers licensed to sell these books in Poland can sell directly to you and those who are licensed to publish the same books in the United States can sell directly to me.

Don't blame Sony -- blame the huge ugly morass that copyright laws in various countries are, and the fact that there is no single planetary copyright law and copyright treaty which would allow publishers to sell anywhere.
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Old 12-01-2007, 05:59 AM   #3
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Whilst i recognise what you say as correct, how does the fact that I can buy US books from amazon.com and have them shipped from the US to the UK when these Pbooks are under the same publisher restrictions factor in?
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Old 12-01-2007, 06:12 AM   #4
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My best guess is that it factors in by there being some sort of import duty on those books -- what is the shipping fee compared to a similar weight package which might contain cookies from a loving aunt who lives in the U.S.?

And Amazon may be already covering any licensing fees with local publishers -- remember that Amazon has for many years operated at a loss (I think that only recently have they actually shown a profit) and so may be paying such import fees without passing them on to you, the consumer, simply because such sales increase their overall clout in the marketplace.
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Old 12-01-2007, 06:28 AM   #5
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there are no import duties from the US to EU, untill declared value is over 37 USD/per piece excluding freight. So, I do buy a book on Amazon US, ship it over, dont pay an import fee nor local VAT. done. You see, there is no logic.
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Old 12-01-2007, 06:31 AM   #6
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Whilst i recognise what you say as correct, how does the fact that I can buy US books from amazon.com and have them shipped from the US to the UK when these Pbooks are under the same publisher restrictions factor in?
These are grey market imports and, strictly speaking, not legal. However, publishers in one region (US/Canada or UK/rest of world) who have an edition in the pipeline will yell at Amazon -- or other importers -- and get them to cancel import orders from the other region only if they think it's going to cost them money.
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Old 12-01-2007, 06:40 AM   #7
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there are no import duties from the US to EU, untill declared value is over 37 USD/per piece excluding freight. So, I do buy a book on Amazon US, ship it over, dont pay an import fee nor local VAT. done. You see, there is no logic.
You are mistaken. (About the lack of logic, that is.) It makes perfect sense if you go back 80 years and look at how the publishing industry acquired its current shape ...

English language rights to a book are traditionally sold in two tranches, based on geographical location: US/Canada is one tranche, and UK/commonwealth (excluding Canada) is the other. This system goes back to the early 20th century and was necessitated by the pre-Berne convention US copyright law, which didn't recognize copyright on works not actually copyrighted in the USA and led to rampant piracy (such as, for example, the first US edition of "Lord of the Rings" -- published in the USA without permission). The publication in different zones can actually be beneficial to authors, but can lead to books being sold to different publishers in different regions. A personal example: the right to publish my science fiction novels are sold in the US/Canada zone to Ace (an imprint of Berkley publishing group, which in turn is a subsidiary of Penguin), but in the UK/commonwealth zone to Orbit (a subsidiary of Little, Brown, aka Hachette Group). Orbit and Ace are actually rivals, and imports in substantial numbers of one edition into the other publisher's territory would be detrimental to their sales (and, by extension, to my future book advances, as the author).

In recent years it has become more common to sell world English language rights, but even so, publishers in one zone tend to sub-license the right to publish the works to a publisher in the other zone. (Personal example: my "Merchant Princes" books -- world rights are sold to Tor in the US, but Tor then sell publication rights for the UK/commonwealth zone to PanMacmillan in the UK -- who, confusingly, then publish them under the Tor imprint.)

Which brings us back to Sony.

The reason the Sony ebook store is only accessible using a US credit card is that Sony is sourcing books from US publishers and is constrained by their right to publish in that territory. They're bending over backwards to avoid any risk of being sued by a publisher for selling in the wrong territory. (In practice, in the publishing world, the risk of this happening is close to zero; all Sony really need is a checkbox on the storefront saying "I am somewhere in North America" and they've probably exercised due diligence. But Sony's approach to intellectual property rights comes from the film, TV, and music side of the field, so ...)

I expect that when Sony set up to sell the Reader in Europe, they will be publishing different editions of the ebooks and will not take American credit cards for purchases in the European ebook storefronts.

Last edited by cstross; 12-01-2007 at 06:43 AM.
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Old 12-01-2007, 07:03 AM   #8
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All fine, BUT, in 2007 (almost 2008) I can buy paperback as discussed, pay with my non-US CC and get it delivered home. The above situation prescribed by you bss laws which publishers are using forces me as a customer to:
- use non-Sony sold formated books therefore not being considered as their loyal customer and making them NOT to earn the extra buck.
Another one, by choice & other factors, I do read in English, but what do UK copyright laws have to do it when I want to get the book in Polish/French/Slovak or whatever of 23 languages we use in EU27? Have to admit, dont even expect anything on this level. I do realize that I made a choice in buying SONY EReader, with all its limitations, but for God sake, world is round and if you want to be in biz, you have to offer solutions.
That's were I miss logic most
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Old 12-01-2007, 07:37 AM   #9
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Another one, by choice & other factors, I do read in English, but what do UK copyright laws have to do it when I want to get the book in Polish/French/Slovak or whatever of 23 languages we use in EU27? Have to admit, dont even expect anything on this level. I do realize that I made a choice in buying SONY EReader, with all its limitations, but for God sake, world is round and if you want to be in biz, you have to offer solutions.
That's were I miss logic most
I should like to note that the countries you mention -- the EU, basically -- are all subscribers to the Berne convention and the WIPO agreements on copyright. The copyright laws are therefore pretty much standardized.

In general, when discussing translations, something similar to the English language rights split I described earlier applies; the right to publish in a given language and a given region are sold by the author to a given publisher. However, when English language works are translated into another language, the rights sold are generally whole-of-world in that particular language. English is the only language domain I'm aware of where there's the peculiar region-based split (and I suspect the region-based rights split is on the way out, and will be gone within a generation -- but there's a lot of stuff still in print that's been sold that way, so it'll linger for a while).
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Old 12-01-2007, 08:30 AM   #10
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can we then say, that if customer has no choice (as explained by you), it's the publishing law which pushes him to get creative (talking about DRM's) and go under? Always thought that laws are made for people & not the other way around

Last edited by Arek_W; 12-01-2007 at 09:06 AM.
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Old 12-01-2007, 11:23 AM   #11
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Laws are made for people! the people with the most money in many cases...big corporations and companies.
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Old 12-01-2007, 11:59 AM   #12
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Whilst i recognise what you say as correct, how does the fact that I can buy US books from amazon.com and have them shipped from the US to the UK when these Pbooks are under the same publisher restrictions factor in?
A lot of it has to do with publisher vs. distributor vs. retailer. Amazon can sell p-books across the oceans because they're a retailer. If publisher "X" holds US-only rights to title "Y", they're restricted by contract. They can only sell to US-based distributors and booksellers.

Amazon isn't party to that contract. That contract is between "X" and the author/rights holder. (This is simplified, because Amazon is probably buying the title from Ingram who bought from "X", but it still holds.) The publisher has no right or reason to restrict where a bookstore's customer is.
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Old 12-01-2007, 12:08 PM   #13
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ok, I do follow but than SONY is not a publisher, just retailer. Why not apply same logic?
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Old 12-01-2007, 12:30 PM   #14
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ok, I do follow but than SONY is not a publisher, just retailer. Why not apply same logic?
That's where e-books veer off the traditional bookseller path. Sony isn't the publisher, but it isn't just a dealer, either. It's kind of acting like a combined printer/distributor/dealer (except the distributor only has one customer). It's a whole new contract. If the publisher only holds US e-rights, they're obligated to pass that restriction on, because everyone gets queasy when it comes to bits instead of physical units. With "piracy" being such a hot button in the e-world, the last thing a publisher, Sony, or Amazon wants is to be accused of copyright violation.

Eventually, I'm hoping the whole regional restriction thing will just go away. It's completely outmoded in the digital realm. Unfortunately, even if it changed tomorrow, it still wouldn't change the hopeless tangle of rights for everything that's already in play.
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Old 12-01-2007, 12:45 PM   #15
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I guess that would be conclusion. But it makes you wonder when ppl who want to be ligit have to be creative. It just buffles me. Oh well, have to turn ON the BookDesigner and work out my own copy :/
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