Tuesday, December 15, 2009

1) Amazon's exclusive rights to 2 Covey ebooks. 2) Australian lament

NY Times's Brad Stone and Motoko Rich report that Stephen R. Covey, "one of the most successful business authors of the last two decades, has moved e-book rights to two of his best-selling books from his print publisher, Simon & Schuster ... to a digital publisher that will sell the e-books to Amazon.com for one year."

Amazon will have exclusive rights to sell e-book versions of 'The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People' and 'Principle-Centered Leadership.'

  He also plans, the NYTimes said, to "gradually make other e-books available exclusively to Amazon, which will promote them on its Web site."

Hardcover publishers are already unhappy with Amazon's low Kindle book pricing and are collaborating to withhold e-book versions of new releases for four months, as they feel they cut into hardcover sales at those prices.  I think that withholding these until reviews come in, and until people will have lost initial excitement about a no-longer new release, will just cut into e-book sales and decrease their bottom line.

Publishers are also trying to claim exclusive rights to publish e-editions of decades-older works while authors and agents feel the digital rights reside with the author, since electronic rights were not explicitly spelled out earlier.
' On Friday, Random House sent a letter to dozens of literary agents stating that on all backlist books, it retained “the exclusive right to publish in electronic book publishing formats.”

But the younger Mr. Covey noted that Franklin Covey was also experimenting with self-publishing new books, another way of cutting out the traditional print publisher. '

PCAuthority's Stuart Turton bemoans the number of desirable books not available to Australians for the Kindle International but blames it on the Amazon Kindle format when it's a matter of publisher digital-rights in each of the countries.  He also laments the lack of Kindle versions of books by JK Rowling, but the fact is that she won't allow her books to be released in any e-book format.

He's aware though that "On the bright side, Amazon's finest does support Mobipocket and TXT files, at least allowing you to download free eBooks from Project Gutenberg and its ilk."  Since Project Gutenberg's collection is about 30,000 books, not to mention what's offered by "its ilk" (including half a million free Google books that are easily auto-converted to Kindle format), a lot of reading can be done while publishers are encouraged to straighten out this situation.

Writing with tongue-in-cheek partially, he does recognize you can "crowbar" PDFs, DOCs and RTF's onto the Kindle by a conversion process but doesn't realize that PDFs can just go directly onto it the way plain text files can.
' These flaws are all the more infuriating because the Kindle's hardware is staggeringly good. The keyboard offers a handy way to search and add notes to books, and the little joystick can be used to highlight text, navigate menus and bring up definitions of words from the Oxford American Dictionary.

We're particularly amused by the text-to-speech feature, which veers from being mildly useful one minute, to doing impressions of HAL having a heart attack the next. [ Good description! ]

More relevant is the 1.4GB of usable storage and a 532MHz ARM processor that ensures the Kindle moves faster than a cheetah being shot out of a cannon, although it tends to get bogged down when dealing with image-heavy PDFs.

However, the pick of the technological litter is undoubtedly the 6in E Ink screen, which renders in 16 shades of grey. It's hard to explain the difference this makes without seeing it in action, but it softens and deepens the picture immeasurably. '
Amazon doesn't include photographs with international editions of subscriptions and told him that they need to keep the price of subscriptions lower.  Turton feels it has more to do with "avoiding excessive data charges" until a better wireless network situation is in place -- but the two do go together.  If data charges are higher, of course the subscription cost would have to be also.  I'm in agreement with him though that the subscriptions are unattractive without the accompanying photographs.  He sums up this woeful (as he puts it) posting with:
' Which sums up our feelings towards the Kindle as a whole. The Kindle feels like a device whose brilliant hardware has been short-changed by Amazon's thwarted ambition.

Had the store offered a wider selection of titles, or the device not been so totally dependent on it, the Kindle's Performance rating would be up there with that of its Features & Design. '
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