32 thoughts on “Where in the World is Lisbeth Salander Pt 3”

  1. Wow.

    And I thought it was all crystal clear (not).

    Good post, and it’s interesting to hear about global solutions. I have readers in America who want to buy my books as ebooks but can’t because I don’t have a US paper book deal (yet), although all my titles are available as ebooks in Australia.

    This is a fascinating, confusing and exciting time for pubishing.

    1. I should have mentioned that authors are also in a great position to lobby their publishers to make their ebooks available to other territories. There’s no reason why your ebooks shouldn’t be available in the US, Tony – at least until you sell US digital rights. Talk to your agent or publisher and see what can be done to work around it until then, at least for the sake of your fans in the US or elsewhere.

  2. Wow.

    And I thought it was all crystal clear (not).

    Good post, and it’s interesting to hear about global solutions. I have readers in America who want to buy my books as ebooks but can’t because I don’t have a US paper book deal (yet), although all my titles are available as ebooks in Australia.

    This is a fascinating, confusing and exciting time for pubishing.

    1. I should have mentioned that authors are also in a great position to lobby their publishers to make their ebooks available to other territories. There’s no reason why your ebooks shouldn’t be available in the US, Tony – at least until you sell US digital rights. Talk to your agent or publisher and see what can be done to work around it until then, at least for the sake of your fans in the US or elsewhere.

  3. You are so eloquent, how I hate thee!

    Do you think the market can fix itself, or will the ACCC have to come and play?

  4. You are so eloquent, how I hate thee!

    Do you think the market can fix itself, or will the ACCC have to come and play?

  5. I think there does need to be clearer legislation about ebooks so that retailers know what they can and cannot do. However, I don’t think that’s the ACCC’s job, it’s the government’s. Publishers are not doing anything wrong, they’re just protecting their investments in intellectual property with the full force of government legislation behind them.

    On the other hand, if we had stronger ebook retailers in this country, there would be a lot more they could do to make more ebooks available to readers. In time, as the market matures and there are more people reading ebooks, there will be more reason for both publishers and retailers to capitulate to readers’ demands and give them what they want. At the moment, though, there just aren’t enough of us.

  6. I think there does need to be clearer legislation about ebooks so that retailers know what they can and cannot do. However, I don’t think that’s the ACCC’s job, it’s the government’s. Publishers are not doing anything wrong, they’re just protecting their investments in intellectual property with the full force of government legislation behind them.

    On the other hand, if we had stronger ebook retailers in this country, there would be a lot more they could do to make more ebooks available to readers. In time, as the market matures and there are more people reading ebooks, there will be more reason for both publishers and retailers to capitulate to readers’ demands and give them what they want. At the moment, though, there just aren’t enough of us.

  7. As usual with Australian businesses it will all be too late. I’ve had my Kindle since earlier this year and my Fathers Day and birthday gifts were all Amazon gift cards. The whole lot went on Kindle books.

    Prior to my Kindle, I did all my book-buying through The Book Depository – around half the price of the books in Australia, where books that were actually in stock and were sent with free airmail postage. Most books arrive within 7 days which is faster than I can get them posted and delivered from Australian book retailers. And what did I do with the money saved? Bought more books from TBD.

    Why is it 50% cheaper to buy a book from TBD which has been published, printed and shipped to the UK?

    From a reader’s POV, the ‘publishing industry’ as we know it today should go the way of typewriwriters, horse and buggies and vinyl records (although the latter is still hanging on – just).

    The ‘publishing industry’ hasn’t learnt a thing from the music industry’s failure for a long time to come to terms with the Internet.

    One big benefit of ebooks has been to indie authors. I know the majority of my hundreds of Kindle books are from indie publishers/authors. Stuff the big publishers and their agency agreement via Apple. And I know from the Amazon forums that a whole heap of Kindle owners are finding their own low-priced gems where the author is getting a much slice of the sale price.

    And many of us are also becoming re-acquainted with the classics which can usually be had for free. Sorry Penguin your time is up on these – having to pay $10-20 was probably a deterrent for a lot of people.

    And last but not least, while the publishers are getting their acts together the ‘dark side’ of the ‘Net for ebooks is growing. Will publishers follow music publishers and make the cost of ebooks low enough (through savings on printing, distribution etc.) so that it will more trouble to pirate a book than buy it?

    I don’t feel a bit of loyalty to Aussie publishers or booksellers as I think readers have been ripped off long enough.

    At the moment I believe authors and readers will be the big beneficiaries of ebook publishing (my mouth waters at the thought of there being no such thing as an out-of-print book).

    Oh, and I notice that a lot of US community libraries now loan ereaders and ebooks – they are ‘getting with it’.

    1. The reason the Book Depository can sell books so cheaply and ship them for free is that they are making a loss (or very close to it) on every book they sell. As I’ve suggested in a previous post, many internet start-ups don’t make any money for many years and rely on investors to pay everyone’s salaries until they find a way to make money. Many of them never do, and they end up going bust or being bought by a larger company (the people who started BD can expect a lot of interest from their old employer – Amazon). They judge their success in those intervening years (sometimes up to a decade) by market share.

      This is not to say you shouldn’t buy your books from BD (though you should try Boomerang too – they are really nice). It’s just that you shouldn’t assume that just because one company is selling you a product at a ridiculously low price that everybody else is ripping you off. The Australian publishing industry gets this accusation levelled at them all the time. People boldly proclaim they’re being ripped off by Australian publishers almost every day in the blogosphere. It’s just not the case. Publishing is not a particularly profitable business. Margins are low. It’s because of this that the transition to ebooks is taking time. It’s not that they have learned nothing from the music industry. Unlike the music industry, publishers actually want to publish ebooks. They’re all virtually unanimously embracing the new technology and the new way of doing things. It’s just taking time. And I do not think that time has run out just yet. Wait and see.

  8. As usual with Australian businesses it will all be too late. I’ve had my Kindle since earlier this year and my Fathers Day and birthday gifts were all Amazon gift cards. The whole lot went on Kindle books.

    Prior to my Kindle, I did all my book-buying through The Book Depository – around half the price of the books in Australia, where books that were actually in stock and were sent with free airmail postage. Most books arrive within 7 days which is faster than I can get them posted and delivered from Australian book retailers. And what did I do with the money saved? Bought more books from TBD.

    Why is it 50% cheaper to buy a book from TBD which has been published, printed and shipped to the UK?

    From a reader’s POV, the ‘publishing industry’ as we know it today should go the way of typewriwriters, horse and buggies and vinyl records (although the latter is still hanging on – just).

    The ‘publishing industry’ hasn’t learnt a thing from the music industry’s failure for a long time to come to terms with the Internet.

    One big benefit of ebooks has been to indie authors. I know the majority of my hundreds of Kindle books are from indie publishers/authors. Stuff the big publishers and their agency agreement via Apple. And I know from the Amazon forums that a whole heap of Kindle owners are finding their own low-priced gems where the author is getting a much slice of the sale price.

    And many of us are also becoming re-acquainted with the classics which can usually be had for free. Sorry Penguin your time is up on these – having to pay $10-20 was probably a deterrent for a lot of people.

    And last but not least, while the publishers are getting their acts together the ‘dark side’ of the ‘Net for ebooks is growing. Will publishers follow music publishers and make the cost of ebooks low enough (through savings on printing, distribution etc.) so that it will more trouble to pirate a book than buy it?

    I don’t feel a bit of loyalty to Aussie publishers or booksellers as I think readers have been ripped off long enough.

    At the moment I believe authors and readers will be the big beneficiaries of ebook publishing (my mouth waters at the thought of there being no such thing as an out-of-print book).

    Oh, and I notice that a lot of US community libraries now loan ereaders and ebooks – they are ‘getting with it’.

    1. The reason the Book Depository can sell books so cheaply and ship them for free is that they are making a loss (or very close to it) on every book they sell. As I’ve suggested in a previous post, many internet start-ups don’t make any money for many years and rely on investors to pay everyone’s salaries until they find a way to make money. Many of them never do, and they end up going bust or being bought by a larger company (the people who started BD can expect a lot of interest from their old employer – Amazon). They judge their success in those intervening years (sometimes up to a decade) by market share.

      This is not to say you shouldn’t buy your books from BD (though you should try Boomerang too – they are really nice). It’s just that you shouldn’t assume that just because one company is selling you a product at a ridiculously low price that everybody else is ripping you off. The Australian publishing industry gets this accusation levelled at them all the time. People boldly proclaim they’re being ripped off by Australian publishers almost every day in the blogosphere. It’s just not the case. Publishing is not a particularly profitable business. Margins are low. It’s because of this that the transition to ebooks is taking time. It’s not that they have learned nothing from the music industry. Unlike the music industry, publishers actually want to publish ebooks. They’re all virtually unanimously embracing the new technology and the new way of doing things. It’s just taking time. And I do not think that time has run out just yet. Wait and see.

  9. I think websites like http://booko.com.au/ prove to the Aussie reader that they’re paying too much for books bought in Oz.

    I feel the Australian publishing industry has brought about it’s own steadily advancing demise by fighting so hard and successfully against the recent mooted changes. A short-sighted, if not greedy, stance.

    I notice TBD now has a an American (.com) site also with free postage. I’ve found (thanks the current AU$/US$) that books are cheaper there than the UK site.

    1. For one thing, Ron, I don’t think Australian publishing has brought about its own demise. It’s a very healthy industry, especially if you compare it to other homegrown cultural industries like our film industry. Unfortunately, it survives partially because of the protection it enjoys from parallel importation restrictions. Without these restrictions, the industry would shrink and books may or may not get cheaper – during the debates on this there was significant disagreement.

      What people don’t often realise is that with or without parallel importation restrictions, Australians still have to pay sales tax on books they buy here. If you buy it from Amazon or the Book Depository, you don’t. I find the arguments about how cheap these stores are in comparison to the ‘greedy Australian publishers’ quite hypocritical and misinformed. I think it’s strange that so many readers are up in arms about paying extra for books that help support the local industry – including local authors and local bookstores – but don’t bat an eyelid about all the other things Australians pay extra for. We’re a small country and we pay more for most things than Americans do – it’s a simple matter of economics.

      By buying books from the Book Depository, you’re taking money away from the local industry and (considering they have to fly them all out from the US or UK in individual packaging) contributing significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. On top of that, the reason you get them cheaper is because the BD is taking a loss on books for market share, not because it’s the actual cost of producing and shipping them. By all means continue to buy them from the BD – I totally understand why you do – but don’t pretend you’re doing it because the local industry is a rip-off and somehow ‘contributing to its own demise’. It isn’t, you just want to get them cheaper.

  10. I think websites like http://booko.com.au/ prove to the Aussie reader that they’re paying too much for books bought in Oz.

    I feel the Australian publishing industry has brought about it’s own steadily advancing demise by fighting so hard and successfully against the recent mooted changes. A short-sighted, if not greedy, stance.

    I notice TBD now has a an American (.com) site also with free postage. I’ve found (thanks the current AU$/US$) that books are cheaper there than the UK site.

    1. For one thing, Ron, I don’t think Australian publishing has brought about its own demise. It’s a very healthy industry, especially if you compare it to other homegrown cultural industries like our film industry. Unfortunately, it survives partially because of the protection it enjoys from parallel importation restrictions. Without these restrictions, the industry would shrink and books may or may not get cheaper – during the debates on this there was significant disagreement.

      What people don’t often realise is that with or without parallel importation restrictions, Australians still have to pay sales tax on books they buy here. If you buy it from Amazon or the Book Depository, you don’t. I find the arguments about how cheap these stores are in comparison to the ‘greedy Australian publishers’ quite hypocritical and misinformed. I think it’s strange that so many readers are up in arms about paying extra for books that help support the local industry – including local authors and local bookstores – but don’t bat an eyelid about all the other things Australians pay extra for. We’re a small country and we pay more for most things than Americans do – it’s a simple matter of economics.

      By buying books from the Book Depository, you’re taking money away from the local industry and (considering they have to fly them all out from the US or UK in individual packaging) contributing significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. On top of that, the reason you get them cheaper is because the BD is taking a loss on books for market share, not because it’s the actual cost of producing and shipping them. By all means continue to buy them from the BD – I totally understand why you do – but don’t pretend you’re doing it because the local industry is a rip-off and somehow ‘contributing to its own demise’. It isn’t, you just want to get them cheaper.

  11. Thanks for the clear and comprehensive explanation.

    The thing I can’t understand is books by Australian authors, in the Amazon Kindle store, not being available to Australians.

    I come across this a few times recently: The Truth by Peter Temple, and Gunshot Road by Adrian Hyland are both in the Kindle store, but not available to Australians.

    In both of these examples the publisher of the Kindle version is US-based. I’m guessing that the original Australian publisher either can’t be bothered, or wants to “protect” their paper sales.

    I’m with Ron: Australian publishers seem to work directly against the best interests of the consumers, and I don’t feel any loyalty to them.

    Chris

    1. Hi Chris, thanks for your comment. I find that situation incredibly frustrating too. I can’t say for sure what has happened with those two books, but it’s likely the Australian publisher (in the case of those two, I believe it is Text and Penguin) haven’t yet managed to digitise the book and get it up on the Kindle site yet. As I said in my second post, publishers are still working with the set up of their digital infrastructures, and some are more advanced than others. It will happen eventually, though – there are no publishers I’m aware of who are trying to protect their paper sales by intentionally not digitising their books.

  12. Thanks for the clear and comprehensive explanation.

    The thing I can’t understand is books by Australian authors, in the Amazon Kindle store, not being available to Australians.

    I come across this a few times recently: The Truth by Peter Temple, and Gunshot Road by Adrian Hyland are both in the Kindle store, but not available to Australians.

    In both of these examples the publisher of the Kindle version is US-based. I’m guessing that the original Australian publisher either can’t be bothered, or wants to “protect” their paper sales.

    I’m with Ron: Australian publishers seem to work directly against the best interests of the consumers, and I don’t feel any loyalty to them.

    Chris

    1. Hi Chris, thanks for your comment. I find that situation incredibly frustrating too. I can’t say for sure what has happened with those two books, but it’s likely the Australian publisher (in the case of those two, I believe it is Text and Penguin) haven’t yet managed to digitise the book and get it up on the Kindle site yet. As I said in my second post, publishers are still working with the set up of their digital infrastructures, and some are more advanced than others. It will happen eventually, though – there are no publishers I’m aware of who are trying to protect their paper sales by intentionally not digitising their books.

  13. Joel, pardon my saying so, but the current pricing and reactions to it don’t make a lot of sense to me. IIRC it was a large retailer who was actually leading the outraged howls for abolishing the protection wall… And those greedy authors and publishers trying to keep it.

    The wholesale price of a book in the US is more or less 45% of its cover price. Of course for bulk one gets a better deal, but let’s take it 45%. My last Paperback was US$7.99, so the large retailer (the one who howled and growled for cheaper books) was able to order it direct from the publisher at US$ 3.60. I got 64 cents = 8% of cover price. 92% went to retail, distribution, publishing. Yes, they all have costs. Oddly, so do authors! Anyway: The book is on sale in Australia at Aus $22.00 — The large retailer paid, call it Aus $4 + postage/shipping (probably divided by several books)… I still get 64 cents US – now around than 3% of the cover price. So publishing, retail et al got 97% of the income… The publisher actually got call it 20% (out of which he had to pay me, the printer, the cover artist etc.)

    So remind me again – why is always the greedy Authors and publishers accused of pushing up the price?

  14. Joel, pardon my saying so, but the current pricing and reactions to it don’t make a lot of sense to me. IIRC it was a large retailer who was actually leading the outraged howls for abolishing the protection wall… And those greedy authors and publishers trying to keep it.

    The wholesale price of a book in the US is more or less 45% of its cover price. Of course for bulk one gets a better deal, but let’s take it 45%. My last Paperback was US$7.99, so the large retailer (the one who howled and growled for cheaper books) was able to order it direct from the publisher at US$ 3.60. I got 64 cents = 8% of cover price. 92% went to retail, distribution, publishing. Yes, they all have costs. Oddly, so do authors! Anyway: The book is on sale in Australia at Aus $22.00 — The large retailer paid, call it Aus $4 + postage/shipping (probably divided by several books)… I still get 64 cents US – now around than 3% of the cover price. So publishing, retail et al got 97% of the income… The publisher actually got call it 20% (out of which he had to pay me, the printer, the cover artist etc.)

    So remind me again – why is always the greedy Authors and publishers accused of pushing up the price?

  15. Hi Dave, thanks for your comment. Not sure I follow what you’re saying. I’m not accusing anyone of being greedy here. I’m just saying the economics of book publishing in Australia mean that books end up being more expensive.

    Are you saying it’s the retailers pushing up the prices here? I’m not sure. I think the prices get pushed up by everyone, starting with the RRP set by the publisher. Nonetheless, I think in most cases, people complain about book prices in Australia without thinking about how much more expensive it is to publish, distribute and sell books here.

  16. Hi Dave, thanks for your comment. Not sure I follow what you’re saying. I’m not accusing anyone of being greedy here. I’m just saying the economics of book publishing in Australia mean that books end up being more expensive.

    Are you saying it’s the retailers pushing up the prices here? I’m not sure. I think the prices get pushed up by everyone, starting with the RRP set by the publisher. Nonetheless, I think in most cases, people complain about book prices in Australia without thinking about how much more expensive it is to publish, distribute and sell books here.

  17. Joel – I think it is fairly clear that large retailers push the price of _imported_ books. These are the same people (not small independents – who are price takers not makers really) who wanted the local protection removed. As they are the ones inflating book prices (and in some documented cases buying remaindered books and selling them at full price here – meaning they screwed the author too), this would not result in cheaper books, it would just improve their profits and badly wound the local publishing industry and be not good for locally published authors. The protection wall probably does need to go, possibly in some kind of staggered fashion (to do this gently), because there is no doubt that high book prices reduce buying, and reading is a habit, once lost is hard to recapture.

    The greedy publisher comment was made by an earlier poster, the greedy author comment was widespread after the last Amazon stoush. While publishers all called for author support when this happened – it is worth noticing that none of them got up and said actually no-one could describe the author’s share of a book as ‘greedy’ (does 64 cents for a book seem as if the author is gouging?). You, as a retailer or an editor, for example, get a larger share of my book’s income than I do. I dislike being a scapegoat for high prices – which I have no part in setting — so NO they do not get pushed up everyone — especially as the creators get the smallest share for the most work.

    1. Hi Dave, it depends what how you define an ‘imported’ book. Books that are written by international authors, if they are published here in Australia (that is, if the rights are purchased by an Australian publisher) are sold at Australian book prices regardless of their price overseas. That’s because they are still typeset, bound, printed and distributed by an Australian company and that ends up being more expensive than just importing already-printed books. That price is set by publishers, and you can make an argument they’re pricing up, as they haven’t had to pay for editorial (though this is presumably covered by the cost of buying the rights). There are other already-printed international titles that are imported by Australian publishers and sold at whatever price they set (the retailers sometimes mark these down). In those cases it’s a clear case of pricing up – and is central to the parallel importation argument. The argument is that the protection offered to Australian publishers in these situations means they can make a higher profit on international books that they can use to subsidise publishing Australian authors (and employ Australian editors, publicists, typesetters, designers, printers etc).

      If it is a book that falls outside the 30/90 day rule, then retailers are free to import them at cheaper prices from an international distributor – and in those cases those books are marked up by retailers. But many retailers sell these books cheaper as well. I also know of at least a few cases where one book retailer marked up their prices above the RRP set by the Australian publisher, but that situation is quite rare.

      At any rate, I don’t believe there is a ‘greed’ problem in publishing. There is so little money floating around, and the margins are incredibly low. Authors, publishers and retailers make very little money from books. In some ways this is a very bad thing, but of course it means that no matter what happens there will always be books – because the creators, distributors, publishers and sellers of the works do what they do with very little payment!

  18. Joel – I think it is fairly clear that large retailers push the price of _imported_ books. These are the same people (not small independents – who are price takers not makers really) who wanted the local protection removed. As they are the ones inflating book prices (and in some documented cases buying remaindered books and selling them at full price here – meaning they screwed the author too), this would not result in cheaper books, it would just improve their profits and badly wound the local publishing industry and be not good for locally published authors. The protection wall probably does need to go, possibly in some kind of staggered fashion (to do this gently), because there is no doubt that high book prices reduce buying, and reading is a habit, once lost is hard to recapture.

    The greedy publisher comment was made by an earlier poster, the greedy author comment was widespread after the last Amazon stoush. While publishers all called for author support when this happened – it is worth noticing that none of them got up and said actually no-one could describe the author’s share of a book as ‘greedy’ (does 64 cents for a book seem as if the author is gouging?). You, as a retailer or an editor, for example, get a larger share of my book’s income than I do. I dislike being a scapegoat for high prices – which I have no part in setting — so NO they do not get pushed up everyone — especially as the creators get the smallest share for the most work.

    1. Hi Dave, it depends what how you define an ‘imported’ book. Books that are written by international authors, if they are published here in Australia (that is, if the rights are purchased by an Australian publisher) are sold at Australian book prices regardless of their price overseas. That’s because they are still typeset, bound, printed and distributed by an Australian company and that ends up being more expensive than just importing already-printed books. That price is set by publishers, and you can make an argument they’re pricing up, as they haven’t had to pay for editorial (though this is presumably covered by the cost of buying the rights). There are other already-printed international titles that are imported by Australian publishers and sold at whatever price they set (the retailers sometimes mark these down). In those cases it’s a clear case of pricing up – and is central to the parallel importation argument. The argument is that the protection offered to Australian publishers in these situations means they can make a higher profit on international books that they can use to subsidise publishing Australian authors (and employ Australian editors, publicists, typesetters, designers, printers etc).

      If it is a book that falls outside the 30/90 day rule, then retailers are free to import them at cheaper prices from an international distributor – and in those cases those books are marked up by retailers. But many retailers sell these books cheaper as well. I also know of at least a few cases where one book retailer marked up their prices above the RRP set by the Australian publisher, but that situation is quite rare.

      At any rate, I don’t believe there is a ‘greed’ problem in publishing. There is so little money floating around, and the margins are incredibly low. Authors, publishers and retailers make very little money from books. In some ways this is a very bad thing, but of course it means that no matter what happens there will always be books – because the creators, distributors, publishers and sellers of the works do what they do with very little payment!

  19. Dave, thanks for posting your experience here. I’ve started buying directly from authors, so they get a decent share of their own work. I had no idea, previously, how little authors actually get from a book sale, or how little control they have over how their work is handled and published.

    Joel, I don’t agree that customers are simply clamouring for things they can’t have. I’ve been reading ebooks for quite a few years now, and I’m annoyed and confused because I used to be able to buy books I’m no longer allowed to buy. For years, I bought a very wide range of ebooks online. Suddenly, I wasn’t allowed to buy them anymore. I was part-way through series, very much interested in following certain authors, just left staring at this blank wall and wondering, “WTF?”

    Customers have a legitimate grievance in this situation. If it was OK to buy these books two years ago, why did that suddenly change? Did the law change? No. Did we paying customers do something wrong? No. So WTF?

    For reference, my copious ebook purchases at (e.g.) Fictionwise did not disadvantage the Australian publishing industry, because I can’t read paper books (due to disability). Stopping those purchases disadvantaged me, because I can’t access the books I need. (Note: books are less an option and more a necessity to very ill/disabled people, because they help us cope with our situation, and are something left to us that we can actually do.) If it weren’t for Baen, who most generously give ebooks to disabled readers, I would have been in a really difficult situation. (I volunteered for Project Gutenberg as long as I was able, so I read a lot of the public domain which interested me, before ebooks were widely available.) No library in S.A. lends out ebooks.

    Considering I’m perfectly prepared to invest a significant proportion of my income in ebooks, which supports the publishing industry, I don’t think it’s reasonable that I’m prevented from doing so. How does this help anyone?

    As for (1) older publishing contracts and (2) HarperCollins, I wrote to this publisher recently, because it had released three new consecutive titles in the same series by the same author on the same day at the same publisher (Amazon) but with differing “geographic limitations”. I was “allowed” to buy two of those titles, but not the third. I did not receive a reply from HarperCollins. Later, I checked the same three titles at Diesel eBooks, and found that I was “allowed” to buy one title, but not the other two. It was frustratingly inconsistent, not only between these titles with identical conditions, but between different major bookstores for the same release. Diesel asked HarperCollins about this on my behalf, and even got a response, that HarperCollins weren’t “turning on” any of their titles for Australia/NZ. ??? That didn’t answer the question in any way, and doesn’t make sense, because obviously they are “turning on” some books.

    So it’s not just “older” publishing contracts, it’s new ones as well which suffer from this inconsistency and unwillingness to listen on the part of publishers.

    Also, I keep checking back, and I haven’t seen any improvement in the proportion of titles available to Australians at retailers like Fictionwise and Amazon. The authors I used to be able to buy, and popular new titles, are still not available to me. I checked Rex Stout books yesterday at Fictionwise. In the same series and same edition, a handful of titles were available to me, but all the rest weren’t. (Again, this is inconsistent.)

    The only improvement locally is Borders Online, which is building up a good range, all available to Australians and generally at competitive prices. Borders’ website and reader apps. are still discouragingly primitive, but it’s a start.

    However, I still don’t see why it isn’t practical and reasonable to buy ebooks internationally, just as we buy just about anything else. Australian authors will actually benefit from greater visibility, especially if they get a decent share of the book price. At Fictionwise, I spent a lot of money on new authors, whom I simply encountered on Fictionwise’s front page or in their customer ratings. Australian authors deserve this international exposure. I don’t believe any “territorial” restrictions actually benefit authors.

    Since I have been frustrated by the lack of access to ebooks I want to purchase, I’ve been reading ebook and author blogs. Authors simply want you to buy their books. They don’t care where you live. The most common response from authors to “I can’t buy your title in ebook” is surprise and confusion. Some authors go away and ask their agents/publishers about this, and come back more confused. Some say they have specifically insisted on world rights for ebooks, so this shouldn’t be happening. All are perfectly willing to sell you the title directly in ebook, but don’t have the right (sic) to do so if it’s a current publication. So the author donates a copy of the ebook to you, and you find a way to donate money to the author. It used to be called “buying books”, but it doesn’t seem to work anymore.

    I haven’t seen any improvement of this situation over the last year. I am not finding more ebooks available to me internationally. If you can point me to anywhere this is actually happening, please do so.

    1. Hi Clytie, thanks so much for comment. I truly sympathise with your situation. The retailing of ebooks internationally is, as you have seen in the three posts on the subject, piecemeal, complex and far less from the ideal. I agree with everything you have said about the fairness of this situation for consumers, particularly people like yourself who were previously purchasing ebooks and don’t have the option to purchase paper books. As I’ve said, for the most part this is a situation that has no clear bad guy, no single party to blame. The government, retailers and publishers both in Australia and overseas need to get their act together for this situation to be resolved. I believe that in time it will be. However, in the meantime I’d recommend setting up a US Kindle store account so you have access to their full range, and stripping the DRM from the books if you need to read them on a non-Kindle device. This is unnecessarily fiddly, but it means you will have access to the full range of ebooks. If you google it, you should be able to find step-by-step instructions on how this can be done, but if you have any trouble feel free to get in touch with me by direct message on Twitter @joelblacklock. Best of luck with the workarounds, and I hope everyone gets their arses in gear soon!

  20. Dave, thanks for posting your experience here. I’ve started buying directly from authors, so they get a decent share of their own work. I had no idea, previously, how little authors actually get from a book sale, or how little control they have over how their work is handled and published.

    Joel, I don’t agree that customers are simply clamouring for things they can’t have. I’ve been reading ebooks for quite a few years now, and I’m annoyed and confused because I used to be able to buy books I’m no longer allowed to buy. For years, I bought a very wide range of ebooks online. Suddenly, I wasn’t allowed to buy them anymore. I was part-way through series, very much interested in following certain authors, just left staring at this blank wall and wondering, “WTF?”

    Customers have a legitimate grievance in this situation. If it was OK to buy these books two years ago, why did that suddenly change? Did the law change? No. Did we paying customers do something wrong? No. So WTF?

    For reference, my copious ebook purchases at (e.g.) Fictionwise did not disadvantage the Australian publishing industry, because I can’t read paper books (due to disability). Stopping those purchases disadvantaged me, because I can’t access the books I need. (Note: books are less an option and more a necessity to very ill/disabled people, because they help us cope with our situation, and are something left to us that we can actually do.) If it weren’t for Baen, who most generously give ebooks to disabled readers, I would have been in a really difficult situation. (I volunteered for Project Gutenberg as long as I was able, so I read a lot of the public domain which interested me, before ebooks were widely available.) No library in S.A. lends out ebooks.

    Considering I’m perfectly prepared to invest a significant proportion of my income in ebooks, which supports the publishing industry, I don’t think it’s reasonable that I’m prevented from doing so. How does this help anyone?

    As for (1) older publishing contracts and (2) HarperCollins, I wrote to this publisher recently, because it had released three new consecutive titles in the same series by the same author on the same day at the same publisher (Amazon) but with differing “geographic limitations”. I was “allowed” to buy two of those titles, but not the third. I did not receive a reply from HarperCollins. Later, I checked the same three titles at Diesel eBooks, and found that I was “allowed” to buy one title, but not the other two. It was frustratingly inconsistent, not only between these titles with identical conditions, but between different major bookstores for the same release. Diesel asked HarperCollins about this on my behalf, and even got a response, that HarperCollins weren’t “turning on” any of their titles for Australia/NZ. ??? That didn’t answer the question in any way, and doesn’t make sense, because obviously they are “turning on” some books.

    So it’s not just “older” publishing contracts, it’s new ones as well which suffer from this inconsistency and unwillingness to listen on the part of publishers.

    Also, I keep checking back, and I haven’t seen any improvement in the proportion of titles available to Australians at retailers like Fictionwise and Amazon. The authors I used to be able to buy, and popular new titles, are still not available to me. I checked Rex Stout books yesterday at Fictionwise. In the same series and same edition, a handful of titles were available to me, but all the rest weren’t. (Again, this is inconsistent.)

    The only improvement locally is Borders Online, which is building up a good range, all available to Australians and generally at competitive prices. Borders’ website and reader apps. are still discouragingly primitive, but it’s a start.

    However, I still don’t see why it isn’t practical and reasonable to buy ebooks internationally, just as we buy just about anything else. Australian authors will actually benefit from greater visibility, especially if they get a decent share of the book price. At Fictionwise, I spent a lot of money on new authors, whom I simply encountered on Fictionwise’s front page or in their customer ratings. Australian authors deserve this international exposure. I don’t believe any “territorial” restrictions actually benefit authors.

    Since I have been frustrated by the lack of access to ebooks I want to purchase, I’ve been reading ebook and author blogs. Authors simply want you to buy their books. They don’t care where you live. The most common response from authors to “I can’t buy your title in ebook” is surprise and confusion. Some authors go away and ask their agents/publishers about this, and come back more confused. Some say they have specifically insisted on world rights for ebooks, so this shouldn’t be happening. All are perfectly willing to sell you the title directly in ebook, but don’t have the right (sic) to do so if it’s a current publication. So the author donates a copy of the ebook to you, and you find a way to donate money to the author. It used to be called “buying books”, but it doesn’t seem to work anymore.

    I haven’t seen any improvement of this situation over the last year. I am not finding more ebooks available to me internationally. If you can point me to anywhere this is actually happening, please do so.

    1. Hi Clytie, thanks so much for comment. I truly sympathise with your situation. The retailing of ebooks internationally is, as you have seen in the three posts on the subject, piecemeal, complex and far less from the ideal. I agree with everything you have said about the fairness of this situation for consumers, particularly people like yourself who were previously purchasing ebooks and don’t have the option to purchase paper books. As I’ve said, for the most part this is a situation that has no clear bad guy, no single party to blame. The government, retailers and publishers both in Australia and overseas need to get their act together for this situation to be resolved. I believe that in time it will be. However, in the meantime I’d recommend setting up a US Kindle store account so you have access to their full range, and stripping the DRM from the books if you need to read them on a non-Kindle device. This is unnecessarily fiddly, but it means you will have access to the full range of ebooks. If you google it, you should be able to find step-by-step instructions on how this can be done, but if you have any trouble feel free to get in touch with me by direct message on Twitter @joelblacklock. Best of luck with the workarounds, and I hope everyone gets their arses in gear soon!

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