Tuesday, 2012-06-05

Rights fail in the ebook world

So John Scalzi, internet phenomenon and SF author, has a new book out, Redshirts. As I am a fan of his work and admire what he’s managed to do, get the book published in electronic format without DRM, I thought I’d purchase it and read it on my iPhone.

I don’t have an account with Amazon as I live in Sweden and they’re not very well represented here, but I do have an iTunes account, and lo and behold, the book is available in the iTunes store!

Sorta.

Redshirts for "sale" in the iTunes Store

As you can see, I can buy the ebook in November for 85 SEK (€8.50) or pay double for the audiobook version and get that now. Why is this?

Well I don’t really have time for research but I’m guessing that as I am in the EU, the ebook rights belong to Scalzi’s UK publisher, while the audiobook rights are global.

Now I’m not interested in the audiobook, I don’t want to pay double for Wil Wheaton’s narration (he’s an unknown quantity in that regard) and besides, it’s more money than I want to spend. I would be perfectly happy to pay the money for the ebook, in fact I’m kind of making a point of doing so as I feel I have a more personal connection to Scalzi than your average faceless writer.

My question is, how does this help me buy a product legally and get money to an author? I really don’t want to hear about how legacy contracts are hindering a global launch of a book that’s been promoted heavily on the internet by its author. I really don’t see what kind of value-add Scalzi’s UK publisher is bringing to the table, or if it’s a sort of profit sharing deal with the US publisher. The only thing I care about is that I have money and the motive to legally purchase a product, but for some Byzantine reason I am told to wait, cap in hand, simply because I happen to live in another part of the planet.

And then there’s the fact that there are alternatives. They are ubiquitous, simple to use, and free! The only downside is that they are infringing on Scalzi’s copyright, and he won’t get any money. But I guess that’s not something that book publishers have to worry about, right?