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Discussion Starter #1
I hope that I put this post in the correct place-I wasn't sure where it should go.

I don't know anything about the publishing industry and how getting rights for digital books go. I am sure that many of you here do, so I am hoping you can help me gain some knowledge. I emailed the current publisher about getting Mary Stewart's books on Kindle and I got a very kind response back stating that..."Unfortunately we do not have the rights to publish Mary Stewart's titles in an electronic format. It's unfortunate that, as e-readers become more ubiquitous, we cannot provide these formats to her fans. However it can prove rather difficult to negotiate these rights from the original publishers."

Why wouldn't the original publishers want to do release her titles? I guess I won't ever get to read her on Kindle.  :( Also, I always assumed that once a book was published it stayed with the same publishers, why do publishers change? Do they sell the rights to certain titles to make money? Sorry in advance it's just a topic I obviously know nothing about.
Thanks in advance for any insight! :)

 

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I won't claim to in any way be an expert on this, but that won't stop me from replying. ;)

I think that ultimately the issue here is the exact rights that were given to the publisher by the author. It all depends on what the contract terms were that the author and publisher signed onto. Typically the author will retain the copyright of their works, and the publisher can only publish that work in the manner(s) agreed to in that contract and, if specified, within some time period. Thus if the contract did not include electronic media rights or if the contract has expired, then the publisher would not currently have the right to publish it as an e-book unless/until a new agreement is signed. This can become a bit of a mess with older works that were originally published before e-books became popular or even existed at all, and especially in cases where the author has died and the copyright has passed to his/her heirs or other parties.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for helping me out-that makes perfect sense to me. Maybe one of these days some sort of agreement could be reached, I guess I can only hope.
Thanks again :)
 

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Just a few more comments...

When a book is put under contract, it is typically for X number of years and can include Y number of renewals for more years. If the book is just an average seller, the publisher can let it go at the end of the contract period at which point, the rights revert back to the author. The author is then free to shop it around to a new publisher if s/he wants.

There are some books that have never gone out of print -- To Kill A Mockingbird, for example (although in that case, the publisher changed when J.B. Lippincott sold off all of its fiction holdings in the early 1980s). The original contract for that book didn't have any mention of digital rights, I'm sure, since the concept and term didn't even exist then. So, technically, for this book, the author has the e-rights, even though it is not spelled out anywhere. I suspect that is the reason why certain older books that are very popular but the author is still alive are not showing up as ebooks. (Catcher in the Rye would be another example of this.)

As for the Mary Stewart example you gave -- it doesn't make total sense to me that the original publisher has the e-rights (although anything is possible). If the original contract has expired, it would seem that the rights have gone back to her. Maybe she's like Harper Lee and J.D. Salinger and doesn't want (or understand) to have her books as ebooks. Who knows? This is just a guess on my part.

L
 
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