The Publishing Industry

The Publishing Industry

Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 37
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5214-9.ch006
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Abstract

This chapter examines the current evolving publishing framework in Australia and the relationship between authors and their publishers, noting the competing interests of the various subaltern spheres (such as the “author sphere” and “publisher sphere”) within the greater public sphere. A comparison between a standard publisher’s contract and the model contract recommended by the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) provides a source for analysis and discussion, which relevantly reflects the nature of the relationship between author and publisher. The issue of digital publishing is investigated to ascertain what constitutes an equitable arrangement for authors. Finally, new business models in publishing are considered and observations are made on copyright protection measures on the Internet, alternative licensing models such as the Creative Commons and the “honesty box” model used by some authors. A brief discussion of the anti-copyright actions of Google is also included, and in conclusion, the author-publisher power balance is addressed, taking into account the different characteristics of print books and ebooks.
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Introduction

The book is dead. Long live the book.’Sherman Young

In addition to support structures available to Australian authors and the impact of the public sphere environment within which they function, issues such as the publishing industry and the business models used to monetise authors’ copyright are important considerations when examining the third research question concerning Australian authors’ views on the changing nature of the publishing industry and how they have been affected by advances in this area.

In this chapter the position of the author in relation to the publishing industry will be examined in three sections. The first part deals with publishing agreements and the relationship between author and publisher; the second part investigates current innovations in the publishing industry and the third section considers copyright options in emerging business models and the different ways in which copyright protection is being implemented electronically. It also considers whether the changing publishing models have brought about a shift of power in the author-publisher relationship.

Theorists have been examining the future of the book and have debated whether the book is in danger of being replaced by hypertext and digital technology for some years (Nunberg, 1996, p. 104; Young, 2007, p. 8). It is therefore important to investigate the changes that are occurring in the publishing industry as a result of the democratised space of the Internet, and consider how authors are being affected by these changes.

It is suggested that American writer Mark Twain’s 1909 publishing contract was the first contract to make provision for electronic rights. The handwritten agreement provided that his publisher received the rights to publish his memoir ‘in whatever mode should then be prevalent, that is by printing as at present or by use of phonographic cylinders, or by electrical methods, or by any other method which may be in use’ (Jassin, 2010).

In the contemporary publishing environment there are many instances where publishers do not own the electronic rights to published novels and authors are self-publishing electronic versions of best-sellers. Examples are Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, which his estate is self-publishing in electronic form, and author Ian McEwan, who was able to utilise the digital rights to his back catalogue through Amazon.com, separately from previously negotiated publishing rights (Young, 2010).

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Publishing Agreements

The publishing agreement is generally regarded by authors as the author’s means of protecting his/her copyright. Loukakis refers to it as ‘a legal document that controls publication of a book,’ pointing out that for a publishing contract to be meaningful, the most important word in this definition is ‘control’ (2011, p. 28). Publishers, however, generally view the publishing agreement as a means of outlining the terms and conditions of their contract with the author, as seen below. Historically the publishing agreement has been used to regulate the relationship between author and publisher, usually in respect of a printed book, article or other piece of written work, regulating the respective parties’ rights and prescribing contractual issues such as royalty payments, reversionary rights and so forth.

This relationship still exists; however, technological change has caused a paradigm shift in the previously accepted norms and expectations of the publishing contract, as will be shown below. Electronic rights have become an important consideration in such contracts, whilst they previously merited a perfunctorily mention, or were entirely absent, in the case of older contracts. This issue will be discussed later in the chapter.

These changes have not only affected publishing contracts, but have also impacted on the publisher/author relationship. Authors now have access to a broader range of publishing options, no longer relying solely on mainstream print publishing, with access to electronic publishing through online publishers, small publishing houses and self-publishing, as discussed in the next section.

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