It's a Twitter World, but Publishing Rights Are Still Broken


We live an age where social media delivers news faster than CNN and other "traditional" media outlets. Even the British royal family broke down this week and sent out tweets plus an electronic press release before posting its traditional gilded easel announcing the birth of a new prince. So why is it so difficult to get the latest book, album, or TV show released on the same day around the world?

Earlier this month, Apple was found guilty of fixing e-book prices. A New York federal judge said Apple had colluded with publishers to move the book industry from a wholesale model to an agency model where online retailers would get commissions, resulting in higher prices. 

That's all well and fine -- I want cheaper books as much as the next guy -- but there are larger, ongoing practices that just don't make sense in an online world. 

Image via Shutterstock

For example, Ben Aaronvitch's latest book, Broken Homes, is being released this week in the United Kingdom in hard cover, Kindle (electronic version) and audio. It won't appear in the U.S. in paper or electronically via until February 4, 2014.  Yet, I can go onto and order the Kindle version at 7.49 pounds ($11.50, including VAT and free wireless delivery) -- if I create a different account rather than my U.S. account -- or go through one of Amazon's brokerage companies to order the UK hardcopy for a price around $16, plus $4 in shipping.

What is wrong with this picture? Shouldn't an electronic version of the book be available everywhere immediately? Why should I have to hunt around on Google and go buy the UK version on Amazon's UK website with a separate Amazon account? It doesn't make sense, unless you are a publisher.

If you think U.S. buyers are being discriminated against just because we're Americans, think again. UK Doctor Who fans are up in arms because attendees at Comic-Con first saw the trailer for the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special to be aired in December.   The BBC is taking a lot of heat since UK Whovians believe that they -- not the privileged of Comic-Con -- should get first crack at the latest video.

All this comes at a time when Netflix is offering full seasons of TV series on the same day. Yet publishers are still acting like it is 1985, when it was okay to segregate availability of entertainment works, be it books, music, or video. It makes me wish Zappos (an Amazon company) would get into the book business, just so I can get the latest works of my favorite authors in real time without having to jump through hoops.

Edited by Rich Steeves

Contributing Editor

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