Reviewing Book Reviewing
from The SFWA Bulletin #169, Spring 2006
The Authors Guild Takes on Google
In early November, he testified, Microsoft announced an agreement with the British Library to scan 25 million pages from the library's collection. Those pages will be made available at MSN's Book Search site next year . Yahoo is also in the game, announcing last month that it's working with a group called the Open Content Alliance, which includes Adobe Systems, Hewlett-Packard, and the libraries of the University of California and the University of Toronto, to scan books that will be made available though Yahoo's search engine. Since that announcement, Microsoft has signed on to make the books accessible through its search engine as well. In building their databases of books, the Microsoft and Yahoo efforts are properly sticking to scanning works that are in the public domain or those for which they receive permission….
Google is working with four major American libraries, the libraries of Harvard, Stanford, the University of Michigan and the New York Public Library, and one British library, Oxford University's Bodleian Library. Some of these libaries are offering Google only public domain works, but Michigan and reportedly Stanford are offering up works still protected by copyright….
But here's the bad part. Google says that its copying of those books – that its scanning of countless copyrighted volumes, then using optical character recognition technology to digitize the text of those works to create files to assemble into a new, unimaginably vast database, surely one of the largest databases ever assembled – that all of that copying, and use of these works, would be fair use, so it doesn't need a license from anyone for this copying, For good measure, it's handing over a digital copy to its partner libraries, and telling them it's OK to post the works to their websites. That, too, it appears, is to be considered fair use.
Since there's no license needed, in Google's view, Google doesn't have to give rights holders contractual assurances of the security of their database. Could a backup tape go astray from Google or any of its partner libraries, unleashing a couple hundred thousand copyrighted works onto the Internet?...
What remedy would authors and publishers have if these databases are deemed to be fair use copies but one of them is hacked into or otherwise finds its way onto the Internet? If we're fortunate, the negligent party would have substantial resources, but stating a claim against that entity might well be impossible. There's no license, so there's no breach of contract….
What about uses by the partner libraries? The only contractual obligation imposed on libraries – at least in the sample available to us from the University of Michigan contract at Google – allows the University of Michigan to use the works at its website. No mention is made in the contract of limiting browsers to so-called fair use snippits….
What if the University of Michigan is wrong, and its use oversteps the bounds of fair use? Authors and publishers could just sue for damages, right? No, we'd probably be out of luck; as a state institution, the University of Michigan is immune from damages claims under copyright law….
At some point, we believe that Google will want to do the right thing, and look to a licensing solution for the use it wants to make of these millions of works. It's too early to discuss what such a license would look like, but its general outlines might be guessable. Revenues, in the form of some reasonable split of advertising income, could be paid to authors and publishers. Rights holders would have the right to review Google's security protocols, and Google would be obliged to contractually guarantee the security of its database. A negotiated license could pave the way for a real online library – something far beyond the excerpts Google intends to offer through its Google Library program. [end of testimony; italics in original]
WWA President Rita Cleary commented on the testimony in her President's Letter in the February 2006 Roundup Magazine.
She quoted outgoing Authors Guild President Nick Taylor as stating, "It's not up to Google or anyone other than the authors, the rightful owners of the copyrights, to decide whether and how their works will be copied."
Ironically, according to a news brief in the February 2006 RWR, Google gave the Library of Congress a $3 million donation to help start a World Digital Library. In addition, Google will provide computer equipment to aid the LoC to develop standards for indexing these digital collections.
The Book Trade - 2004
A squib in the December 2005 RWR from the same report adds that the used-book market had $2.2 billion in sales for 2004, an increase of 11% over 2003, the most growth of any segment of the industry. A total of 111.2 million used books were sold in independent bookstores, on the Web, and through alternative markets like yard sales and thrift stores.
And though I can't find the reference again, I'm going to trust my memory to say that the numbers of books published have been wildly inflated by the huge increase in small press, PoD, and self-publishers, which are up to 86,000 imprints.
Names in the News
R. W. Salvatore said, "I think school beat the reading out of me, mostly by giving me books I found irrelevant and just plain boring. My love for literature began anew in 1978, my freshman year of college, when, during a tremendous blizzard, I escaped to Middle Earth for an adventure with Bilbo Baggins. Nothing's ever been the same since."
Kelly Link said, "We had two goals [for Small Beer Press]. One was to break even; the other was to make artifacts that looked as much as possible like real books…. The design and making of the books was the most fun… putting covers together, choosing a font…. We get to do whatever we want." Her first short story collection, Strange Things Happen, published by Small Beer, not only sold out it's first printing of 2,000 copies but is now in its fifth printing.
Then there's Michael Crichton, whose new novel State of Fear denies global warming. Senator James Imhofe made the book required reading for his Environment and Public Works committee, calling global warming "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people."
Other comments came from the Natural Resources Defense Council: "more silly than scary"; the Brookings Institute: the book is "notable mainly for its nuttiness"; and the Union of Concerned Scientists: State of Fear "does not reflect scientific fact."
Markets Outside the Box
You may occasionally note that deadlines in the market reports in the Bulletin cut a bit too close for comfort. Here's one that comes in plenty of time. Hayden's January column talks with Lida E. Quillen, publisher at the small press Twilight Times Books. They do fantasy and science fiction titles, and are OK if the stories cross genre with mysteries. They want an email query before an electronic submission of a cover letter, synopsis, first chapter and marketing plan in the body of an email message. Start the subject line with ttb or ttbooks and send to email@example.com. Oh, and their website now warns that they will not be open for submissions until July 15 to August 5, 2006.
The February 2006 RWR has paranormal market updates to last issue's report. Ellora's Cave Publishing has two lines it's accepting manuscripts for. Ellora's Cave wants all erotic romance genres except female dominance. The most popular subgenres are paranormal, vampire/shapeshifter, futuristic, and bondage/male dominance. It's also looking to acquire gay/lesbian romance. Although it prefers books over 50,000 words, it will accept manuscripts as small as 20,000 words. The Cerirdwen Press line wants paranormal and futuristic stories of at least 50,000 words. For both, send first three chapters and final chapter in .doc or .rtf format along with a detailed synopsis to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
At Kensinger Publishing, John Scognamiglio is actively looking for paranormal romances and sci-fi fantasy romances of 85,000 to 100,000 words. Hardcopy submissions only. Include cover letter with publishing credits and 3 to 5 page synopsis. New writers must submit fill manuscript; previously published ones three sample chapters plus a copy of your previous book. Send to John Scognamiglio editor-in-chief, Kensington Publishing Corp., 850 Third Ave., New York, NY 10022.
And it had to happen: editors are now announcing their wants through their LiveJournal entries. For this latest peek into the future of publishing, check out what Anna Genoese of Tor has to say at alg.livejournal.com/81163.html
Sexy is fine. Not-so-sexy is also fine. No fewer than 70,000 words, no longer than 100,000.
Specifically I am looking for a Hannukkah book. I want a book about Jewish people with some kind of Judaism-based magic. This is not a joke. This is the perfect opportunity for a brand-new writer to break into this genre. (Our typical advance for a first time writer in this genre is $4000 - $7000.)
I would need complete manuscripts by October 2006. If you have never sold a full-length novel to a major publishing house before, you will need to have a complete ms. before we go to contract. [italics in original]
Send to: Anna Louise Genoese, Editor, Tor Romance, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.
Check that webpage for links for more specific submission information.
Goosing the Midlist
Too Good Not to Be Shared
Your book deflected a .762 round that was intended to kill me.
Once home in December if you would do me the honor of autographing my copy (with the bullet hole through it of course) I would greatly appreciate it.
Mystery Writers of America, The 3rd Degree, 17 E 47th St, 6th floor, New York, NY 10017, www.mysterywriters.org/
Novelists, Inc., NINK, P.O. Box 1166, Mission, KS 66222-0166, www.ninc.com/
Romance Writers of America, Romance Writers’ Report, 16000 Stuebner Airline Dr., Suite 140, Spring, TX 77379, www.rwanational.org
Western Writers of America, Roundup Magazine, 1012 Fair Street, Franklin, TN 37064-2718, www.westernwriters.org
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