Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Perfect Example of Traditional Business Models Meet the New Order

The Swedish Writers’ Union just said fuck you to the largest Swedish publishing house Bonnierförlagen. (photo left) The quarrel is about the Google Booksearch Settlement. Bonniers turned down the Google offer, as many other European publishing houses have done. Logical as they want to negotiate the offer first.

But Bonniers realized that they didn’t own the copyright to the eBook version of most of their titles. The rights are entirely owned by the authors. So the authors are free to sign private deals with Google.

Most of the books are in-copyright, but out of print. And they are “orphan works,” that is, works for which it is virtually impossible to locate the appropriate rights holders to ask for permission to digitize them.

Therefore Bonniers introduce their own eBook offer to their authors. But it turned out that the Bonniers’ offer was a lot worse than Google’s. The new Bonniers deal builds on a traditional copyright – the right to copy and distribute on paper.

Google’s model builds on a Creative Common license, shared between the author and the publisher, developed for the Internet. Bonniers’ model is unsuitable for the electronic media. Funny, as the settlement is about eBooks.

It’s a perfect example of where traditional business models meet new ones.

Google Booksearch SettlementBonniers deal
Non exclusiveExclusive
Cancellation on notice in advanceForever
63% royalty to the author on sales24 % royalty to the author on “net revenues” (unspecified)

Bonniers can pick and choose which books they will publish, without the author’s permission or any renumeration.The Sweders Writers' Union understood the Bonniers deal’s lack of common sense. For the authors it should be a no-brainer to choose.


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