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Old 04-22-2009, 01:34 PM   #1
Blue Tyson
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List of georestricting publishers

So, scumsuckers include

Penguin
Hachette

Who else have people had this problem with, so we can actually name them all?

Last edited by Blue Tyson; 04-22-2009 at 02:37 PM.
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Old 04-22-2009, 02:04 PM   #2
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The only publisher we know for sure has stopped supplying ebooks to retailers who don't enforce their interpretation of geographical rights, is Hachette, see Hachette Book Group causing major hassles.
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Old 04-22-2009, 02:05 PM   #3
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I would imagine that pretty much every publisher will have geographical restrictions in at least a portion of their publishing contracts. Don't you think you're being a little melodramatic in using such a term as "scumsuckers" for what is such a normal thing in a contract?

Why do you actually care? It doesn't prevent anyone from buying the books.
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Old 04-22-2009, 02:12 PM   #4
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Yes, it's easy to change our location in our accounts in most ebook stores.
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Old 04-22-2009, 02:15 PM   #5
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Quote:
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Yes, it's easy to change our location in our accounts in most ebook stores.
Precisely my point. If nominal geographical "restrictions" keep the lawyers happy, then let them be so. As long as the store has the common sense not to actually prevent anyone from buying a book who actually wants to, it's a bit of a non-issue .
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Old 04-22-2009, 02:27 PM   #6
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Precisely my point. If nominal geographical "restrictions" keep the lawyers happy, then let them be so. As long as the store has the common sense not to actually prevent anyone from buying a book who actually wants to, it's a bit of a non-issue .

Yeah, well, keeping the lawyers happy isn't societally beneficial, as far as I can see. If you are a collaborator, you are part of the problem.

Apart from its a pain in the arse.

Scumsucker WAS the polite version.

Imagine if you had to go into a shop and tell a few lies or provide proof of where you came from to buy a book. It's stupid.
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Old 04-22-2009, 02:29 PM   #7
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Plus, it is easy to change it, _currently_. It is also trivial for programmers to make it so it can't be changed (even though bookshops may be crazy to do so), or you have to provide identification to do so. Then they might refuse to let you read other region books, etc. Being a happy ostrich now is one thing. Might not be, later.
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Old 04-22-2009, 02:30 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
I would imagine that pretty much every publisher will have geographical restrictions in at least a portion of their publishing contracts. Don't you think you're being a little melodramatic in using such a term as "scumsuckers" for what is such a normal thing in a contract?

Why do you actually care? It doesn't prevent anyone from buying the books.
So you wouldn't like fuckwads I'd be happy to see bankrupt, then?
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Old 04-22-2009, 02:32 PM   #9
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Quote:
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The only publisher we know for sure has stopped supplying ebooks to retailers who don't enforce their interpretation of geographical rights, is Hachette, see Hachette Book Group causing major hassles.
Ok, we can put them on the faecal list for that reason, absolutely, good point. They were the ones that did the equal piece of arseclownery in stopping selling a huge mass of particular format books?

How about actually _stopping_ people buying stuff, as well, though?
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Old 04-22-2009, 03:18 PM   #10
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@Blue Tyson's various posts just above:

Please make an effort to remain polite!

That said, the issue just isn't as simple as it appears. Consider hypothetical PublisherX, just now entering the eBook market. They have a body of pre-existing contracts, many of which have geographic restrictions; some other contracts might not have geographic restrictions. Sure, the restrictions are left-over from the world of dead tree format sales... but they are nevertheless legally binding on the publisher!

So, what is PublisherX to do? Here are a few of their available options:
  1. Ignore their contracts, and sell world-wide anyway.
    • Pros: Make many ebook purchasers happy, and might even net some additional sales for PublisherX.
    • Cons: This approach is certain to get them into multiple lawsuits. And at least a few of those lawsuits would be expensive ones. Further, it will tend to give them a reputation for violating their publishing contracts. And that negative reputation would really interfere with their ability to do business generally, acquire new books to sell, negotiate with authors and agents, etc.
  2. Stay out of the eBook market while they attempt to re-negotiate contracts to have world-wide electronic rights.
    • Pros: Avoids legal hassles. Lets them keep their heads in the sand a while longer in the area of electronic sales.
    • Cons: eBook purchasers chew them out for being "oldfashioned and clueless." They lose out on possible sales in the electronic world while they renegotiate. And when they finally do enter the electronic marketplace they're playing catch-up compared to their competitors who have gained experience while the market is still small.
  3. Enter the eBook market now, with geographic restrictions that match the existing contracts. Simultaneously either re-negotiate old contracts, simply insist on world-wide electronic rights in all new contracts, or both.
    • Pros: Get their feet wet with electronic sales now. Make sense of the contractual issues over time. Avoid sullying business reputation.
    • Cons: Tick off a subset of eBook purchasers. Look (to the technorati) like they are "semi-clueless" -- at least until the geographic thing is sorted out.
  4. Enter the eBook market now, with geographic restrictions that match the existing contracts. Do nothing about making those restrictions go away in the future.
    • Pros: Get their feet wet with electronic sales now, while the market is still small. Avoid sullying business reputation.
    • Cons: Tick off a subset of eBook purchasers. Look (to the technorati) like they are "semi-clueless." Risk a big problem down the road... if geographic restrictions turn out to interfere with sales. And neither we nor they yet know whether these restrictions will really hurt their electronic sales or not.
I note that option #3 and #4 are indistinguishable from outside the publishing community. And might even be indistinguishable from outside PublisherX!

It seems to me that option #1 is a complete non-starter. The legal risk is too large and the sales benefit is too small (in part because the eBook market is too small). And even if the sales benefit was bigger, the possible loss of reputation as a trustworthy business partner is a real killer.

Option #2 may or may not be in use by some publishers -- we can't tell for sure because (when viewed from the outside) it looks the same as Option #0 (just ignore eBooks completely). But if any publisher is actually making that choice by actively trying to fix their contracts... good for them!

For a publisher which, like our hypothetical PublisherX, has existing geographically restricted rights to some of its catalog, options #3 and #4 are probably the most attractive. Choosing #3 over #4 requires paying enough attention to the customer community to realize that we care and also looking far enough down the road to guess whether or not geographic restrictions will turn out to be a problem and deciding that the possible future problem is big enough and likely enough to be worth spending time and money on today (by renegotiating contracts, etc.). If I had to guess from the outside I would expect that most publishers would go with #4, even though I would greatly prefer them to choose option #3.

So I think that Blue Tyson's overheated language is out of touch with reality. It's great fun to think of faceless corporate types as being "scumsuckers" or whatever. Heck, some of them probably even are <fill-in-the-epithet>s! But it's probably much more accurate to look at it as a straight-forward business problem that they are attempting to solve as best they can. Understanding the legal and business issues shows that we need not assume the presence of any bad-guys to explain the presence of these exceedingly annoying restrictions.

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Old 04-22-2009, 03:39 PM   #11
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There is a 5th option:

#5 Enter the eBook market now, with geographic restrictions that match the existing contracts. Only allow your ebooks to be sold by retailers located where you have rights to the ebook. Don't worry about how the ebook store enforces geographic restrictions.
  • Pros: Get their feet wet with electronic sales now. Avoid sullying business reputation.
  • Cons: Get sued by one or more of your authors (or your author's other publisher), e.g. for selling to a Canadian from a US ebook store.
So far as I can tell, option #5 is what every single UK publisher who sells ebooks is doing at present. They may even be skipping the geographic restrictions step, since I have never seen a geographic restriction in the UK. It may even be the case that every single publisher world-wide would be happy with #5 except Hachette.
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Old 04-22-2009, 03:55 PM   #12
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More for Blue Tyson, this time from the PoV of an author or his/her agent.

AgentY has sold his client's novel BigBestseller to two different publishers. PublisherX has American rights; PublisherZ has Commonwealth rights. (Note that this may mean that both the PublisherX and PublisherZ edition are available in Canada. Or maybe only one edition. Or maybe neither edition! Industry practice differs -- some attach Canada to US rights; some to Commonwealth rights. It depends which specific definitions are used by PublisherX and PublisherZ. You can bet that those definitions are spelled out in the contracts, though.)

PublisherX decides that they want to offer BigBestseller as an eBook. If they're lucky, the existing contract already spells out all the details. If not, they have to negotiate a deal with AgentY. Lets assume, for ease of discussion, that the existing contract grants electronic rights for exactly the same territories as the dead-tree rights. Further, we'll assume that both PublisherX is unusually clue-full and so desire to offer the ebook worldwide. In fact, we're going to assume that PublisherX is the ultimate goodguys of the publishing world -- even Baen can only worship the ground on which PublisherX walks! (OK -- you can stop laughing hysterically...)

Now, PublisherX produces an eBook edition of BigBestseller. They do a great job: all the formats look great; there aren't any typos or scanos; it's available in every format under the sun with no DRM. But their existing contract says that they have American rights (we'll assume that includes Canada). So, they put the book up with geographic restrictions and go have a nice heart-to-heart talk with AgentY, asking for world-wide electronic rights.

What can AgentY say to them?
  1. Sure! That'll cost you <some-price-or-other>. Go right ahead.
  2. Sorry, I sold Commonwealth rights to PublisherZ. But you can still purchase the rights for the rest of the world...
  3. Sorry. PublisherZ owns the Commonwealth rights, so you can't have them. Sucks to be you.
  4. We have a problem here -- PublisherZ already owns Commonwealth rights. If you want world-wide rights you'll have to reach a 3-way agreement with both us (agent and writer) and PublisherZ.
I'll skip the detailed pro/con write up, and simply note that option 1 leads to lawsuits flying around between PublisherX, AgentY, and PublisherZ in whatever permutations and combinations are necessary. And they're probably international in nature, filed in multiple venues in different countries with different laws and legal systems... So option 1 is probably right out.

Options 2 and 3 are reasonable approaches for the agent to take... but they lead directly to the geographic restrictions that none of us like.

Option 4 is probably most beneficial to the eBook buying public. But providing benefit to that public is not PublisherX's purpose in life -- they exist to make money by selling a reasonable product at a good-enough price. They'll probably only pursue option 4 if BigBestseller is really really important to their bottom line.


The big point, however, is that AgentY lacks the ability to sell PublisherX a bundle of rights that he's previously sold to PublisherZ! Unless, of course, the rights purchased by PublisherZ were non-exclusive. So even if the publisher is the best-possible corporate citizen, we still have problems getting eBooks on the market with world-wide sales rights!

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Old 04-22-2009, 03:57 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wallcraft View Post
There is a 5th option:

#5 Enter the eBook market now, with geographic restrictions that match the existing contracts. Only allow your ebooks to be sold by retailers located where you have rights to the ebook. Don't worry about how the ebook store enforces geographic restrictions.
  • Pros: Get their feet wet with electronic sales now. Avoid sullying business reputation.
  • Cons: Get sued by one or more of your authors (or your author's other publisher), e.g. for selling to a Canadian from a US ebook store.
So far as I can tell, option #5 is what every single UK publisher who sells ebooks is doing at present. They may even be skipping the geographic restrictions step, since I have never seen a geographic restriction in the UK. It may even be the case that every single publisher world-wide would be happy with #5 except Hachette.
Rumor has it that your listed con has already begun to materialize, and that this problem may be part of why we're seeing more enforcement of geographic restrictions. Lawsuits get expensive fast, and it's worse when they are international.

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Old 04-22-2009, 04:02 PM   #14
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Of course there is yet another approach:

Enter the eBook market early. Buy world-wide electronic rights as a standard part of your publishing contract; refuse any contracts that don't include world-wide electronic rights. Stick to that position even when good-selling popular authors leave for other publishers rather than sell said rights. Eventually switch to buying non-exclusive world-wide electronic rights; lose fewer authors (but still lose some). Have electronic sales and publicity from same help the company grow by more than 2x in sales over 8 years.

Of course, that only works if "you" are Jim Baen and own a controlling interest in your publishing company. He decided that this sales model was the right one, and stuck with it, even when it cost him some well-known authors. Most companies can't make that kind of decision because they aren't controlled outright by one person with a whim of iron.

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Old 04-22-2009, 04:10 PM   #15
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The author isn't going to be the one to sue; it's going to be the distributor who bought the Canadian distribution rights and now finds the American distributor is selling ebooks in Canada. They're going to sue the American distributor AND the author.
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