I have some questions about the new "no public domain policy". I can see the value of the idea, but I was considering digitizing some public domain works (which I have not seen available as e-books elsewhere) for the Kindle store.
1. How will Amazon determine the copyright status of a work?
2. If a work has new material (which is under copyright), would that qualify the book for publishing to the Kindle store? If so, are there minimums? Would an introduction be enough? What are the guidelines?
3. Will publishers be told why a book was rejected?
4. Will there be an "appeal" process? For example, a new book might have the same title as a public domain book, which could be confusing.
5. Does this impact public domain books already published to the Kindle store?
Thanks! I appreciate Amazon's effort to make the Kindle store a friendlier place for readers.
Actually, a while after I read about this, something popped into my head that I've been kind of curious about.
Couldn't this policy be seen as a violation of antitrust laws? I understand the desire to clean up what is becoming an increasingly messy situation. However, there is a darker side to this.
If Amazon not only ceases to allow public domain novels to be sold in the Kindle store, but pulls the ones that non-commercial publishers have put out there, that only leaves the big publishers and their more expensive electronic editions. I think it's a safe assumption that the major publishers will be granted an exemption from the policy, and allowed to continue selling and releasing for sale additional editions of works in the public domain.
Given the fact that Amazon is currently targeting college age kids with the new large format Kindle, this seems like bad timing. That generation is VERY aware and on top of unfair practices by textbook publishers, especially over the last few years. I could see students jumping all over this, as Amazon is in effect weeding out cheap/free editions, in favor of the more expensive commercial releases, and could lead to hypotheses that those publishers put pressure on Amazon to get rid of the competition.
It will be interesting to see this play out, and Amazon might want to talk to a couple lawyers to make sure they won't have a legal issue on their hands. I have no idea if that would be the case or not, but it's certainly something that merits a bit of a second look.
You make a good point. if large publishers are allowed to continue to place public domain titles for sale, there could be a question of antitrust violations.
I don't have any public domain titles on Kindle. I personally don't see the problem with people selling public domain titles, if readers are willing to pay for them. After all we do live in a consummer driven economy (at least we are told that).
I see the fix as simple. Amazon is marketing the availability of free public domain downloads with the purchase of the Kindle Reader. All Amazon has to do is add a link which takes the Kindle user directly to the free downloads. That way readers looking for the free Amazon version can find it with no problem.
Disney has built an empire on public domain titles. If a publisher can sell public domain titles and the public are willing to pay for it, I don't see the problem.
What exactly is this new policy? Does it involve removing all public domain titles sold by independant publishers from the Kindle Store while leaving major publishers public domain titles available for sell? Or will Amazon be the only one with permission to sell public domain titles in the Kindle Store?
The publisher [i]MobileReference[/i] who's books are practically all public domain titles, will have all of their 600+ titles removed from the Kindle Store. This seems to have already been the case as nearly all [i]MobileReference's[/i] books are now listed as 'Not currently available' in the Kindle Store. (I am also assuming this has something to do with the '1984' George Orwell book they made available, or Amazon reviewing their books) Their Mobipocket.com publisher account has also been disabled as none of their books are listed on the mobipocket.com website as of writing this.
The Kindle Store reminds me of the [i]Apple App Store[/i] - where as in the beginning small companies and independant developers were successful as Apples development policies and approval process was more relaxed. It was a time when you would look at the 'Top 100' Apps in the App Store and see individual publishers listed. Fast forward today and the App Store Top 100 is dominated by major software development companies. Many independant developers have built extremely useful Apps only for Apple to turn around and reject them for non-valid reasons.
I can see the same thing happening with the Kindle Store, in the end only major publishers will be successful as the Kindle Store will be almost exclusively tailored to their needs. Small and independant publishers will not be able to compete as promotional features such as listing your Kindle book as FREE is only available to major publishers.
The only concern Amazon should have is about the quality of the public domain books being uploaded and sold in the Kindle Store. The public domain titles that are formatted extremely well and have been checked for spelling mistakes and other errors by the publisher, should be allowed to be sold in the Kindle Store. In other words - only the poor quality editions should be removed.
The review process of Kindle Books Amazon has recently introduced is very reasonable as many of the public domain titles being uploaded are extremely poorly formatted. I've read customer complaints about the public domain titles being sold practically being unreadable as they contained too many spelling, missing comas and other errors.
Its a good thing that sony, Google and Barnes and Noble are entering the eBook market as it gives independant publishers an alternative publishing route if the Kindle Store becomes a platform for only the major publishers to compete in.
I'm pleased by the new policy. To answer your question: it seems (so far, at least) that Amazon isn't retroactively applying this policy. Your title goes up for review only if you Publish it anew, after making changes to it. Of course Amazon may drill down deeper in the future. Certainly there are public domain titles that I would like to see removed from the catalog, because they are dishonestly presented. By the same token, the new policy does nothing to remove or modify these problem books, only to prevent a similar situation arising in the future.
(Not to sound mysterious, I'm referring to public-domain uploads of the old C K Scott Moncrieff translation of Marcel Proust's books. I've also noticed some problematical PD versions of Sun-tzu's The Art of War, but at least these weren't appropriating the artwork and reviews of a copyrighted modern translation.)
[i]"I was considering digitizing some public domain works..."[/i]
Various DTP publishers have already had similar newly uploaded titles rejected by Amazon under their new public domain restrictions (notification of rejection by e-mail) so it is unlikely that if you attempted now to publish even a quality, rare public domain title in the Kindle store that it would be accepted. Although this new policy is in full force now, it does appear to also sporadically apply to previous DTP public domain titles as well, as some of those have been removed from the Kindle catalog completely. Except for complaining directly to Amazon about this, there isn't an 'appeal' process for denial of publication. At least not yet - you made a very good hypothetical case concerning a new novel having the same title as a public domain one, so it's easy to see where a problem might arise if the review process is limited to a title search only.
Some other posters have made a very good case concerning anti-trust laws, too, since the restriction on public domain titles does not seem to apply whatsoever to the major publishers. Like this new policy, there have been many similar overhauls by Amazon of its website these past few months and all the changes have resulted in more and more obstacles for the Indies attempting to market products on Amazon. Perhaps if you consider the impact that DYI-ers are having on the publishing, film, and music industries in general, this all makes perfect sense. For instance, [i]Readers Digest[/i] just filed for Chapter Eleven last month, and most assuredly there are others heading for the same fate in this rather delicate economy. No doubt the big publishers have sent up SOS signals to Amazon for assistance...which frankly, even as provided, will only delay the inevitable.
"The bigger you are, the harder you fall" still holds true today. (Meaning, weathering the present storm with a wait-and-see attitude might just be the best strategy for Independents.)
I do have some public domain titles (see below before you attack me), and here is the message I just sent amazon:
I have taken a look at some of my public domain titles available for the Kindle, and I am confused. For example, when I search for The Analects of Confucius, my title shows up (B001KC05MK) and is unavailable. However, numerous other editions are available. My edition contains an original introductory essay authored by me, an originally designed cover (that includes a public domain painting), and the original translation (in the public domain). So my question is: Why am I being zeroed in on and these other publishers are ignored? It seems to me that you should either remove EVERY title that is available through the public domain, or restore my titles and allow the marketplace to operate in its full capacity. As far as I am aware, all of my Kindle books are either original material, or some combination of original material and formatting with public domain material.
And as far as providing documentation for my e-book rights for the titles I have submitted, this is of course ridiculous. ANYONE has the right to distribute public domain material for profit if customers are willing to purchase them. If your lawyers have some new definition and understanding of public domain, please enlighten me.
This talk of lawyers and anti trust suits and so on is a bit beside the point. Amazon has a store. It can sell anything it likes in that store. It may seem unfair that ten guys uploaded The Analects of Confucious and got away with it, and you cannot, but that was just the first mover advantage.
A bunch of cuckoos laid their eggs in the Amazon nest and flew away. Now we are denied that privilege. So it goes. We just have to find another business model, or better yet actually create new content.
Someone has taken the public domain Scott Moncrieff translation from the Gutenberg Project and put it up as a Kindle title while stealing the copyrighted cover image of a modern translation by Lydia Davis. Three readers have published stinging reviews complaining of bait & switch, but the book is still there.
Again, it's the public-domain translation from the 1920s, but stealing not only the copyrighted cover of the Lydia Davis translation (the hardcover, in this case) but the reviews as well! Clearly the bandit publisher (MobilReference in this case) not only grabbed the cover art but used the ISBN of the Penguin book as well.
Take it down, DTP!
And for the rest of you, note well how badly authors and publishers have been treated by some of your fellow 'indie' operatives. This public-domain crackdown is long overdue and has much further to run.
The reviews and description being the same as a different print edition is not something the publisher has control over. There is some mysterious process where Amazon determines if an ebook is the "same" as a print edition. If this process determines a match, then the ebook inherits the reviews and description of the print edition. This is frustrating because the editions are seldom really the same. For the publisher it also means that any special features they may have mentioned in the description during the upload are ignored in favor of the print edition description. For the customer it means that reviews are an amalgamation of the various editions and not of this particular one. If there are issues with a particular version there is no way to put in a review that doesn't show up on all of the different linked editions. This is definitely part of the problem when it comes to choosing which of the multiple versions to download since there is no way for customers to communicate via reviews which edition is good or not. (This is not just an ebook issue though; I've seen the same problem on print editions.)
This system is not fair.
My book ASIN=B002BSH85E isn't public domain. Yet Amazon wants to, by some fiat, declare that it is. I'm the author/publisher. On what basis do they get to change authorship? My book is registered with me as author and publisher. You can't find the book anywhere else as I own all the rights. They couldn't find my book available anywhere else even if they tried. I registered with copyright.gov (although I don't know if that registration is accessible yet) and I have my own ISBN from Bowker.
Amazon isn't looking at titles...Amazon is looking at the independent publisher as I see it. I think this push has to be coming from the big publishers as they want to force all to go through their channels. This is but the first air raid on the small colonies of those starting out.
My point...they aren't just doing it to public domain titles but to independent publishers. I still cannot see how they can come up with the book being in the public domain - so the search in their system for finding titles to discriminate against had to be with publishers who may have had less then x (some small number) books available.
Regardless, my book isn't public domain yet I get lumped in with it. Not fair at all. I'd at least like some basis for their specific choice of titles...but that would take too long so slash and burn first then ask questions later.