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Thread: Publishing Public Domain Works Through KDP


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Permlink Replies: 14 - Pages: 1 - Last Post: Jun 21, 2012 10:58 AM Last Post By: skookumpete
punchygonzales

Posts: 2,853
Registered: 11/26/11
Publishing Public Domain Works Through KDP
Posted: May 31, 2012 8:10 AM
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Amazon currently bans people from publishing public domain content via KDP.

I understand the frustration over people uploading inferior junk they've simply copied from Gutenberg that's generally full of both grammatical and formatting errors. I don't like it either. However, I think it's wrong to assume that people won't purchase PD e-books simply because websites like Gutenberg offer them for free. There's a market for classics that are done right. Many people would gladly pay a dollar for a public domain book where someone has gone to the trouble to make sure that it's properly formatted and proofread for errors. I'm a big fan of 19th century Scottish writer George MacDonald and own the George MacDonald Informational Web. Aside from having written one bio/commentary on the man and having produced a film on him, I've also been creating proper e-book versions of his works in my spare time and have tried to keep as close to the original first edition texts (minus any errors in them) as I can. My intention was just to sell them for a dollar each. I would at least get some small compensation for all the hours I put in correcting and formatting the lousy texts from sites like Gutenberg. But with Amazon (and possibly B&N in the future) locking me out from selling my classic public domain books, my only other recourse is to sell what little I can from the website...or just give the books away. I'll probably do the latter because there just aren't enough sales in books like these from my own website without the help of the big retailers. It's a bit disheartening.

Instead of taking this blanket approach of banning the uploading of PD works altogether, there ought to be some way of ferreting out which public domain uploads are good and proper e-books from the junk that just gets copied from Gutenberg et al. One way that strikes me as a good possibility would be to mandate that all public domain works be submitted as epubs and that Amazon's uploader run them all through Epub Check, rejecting those that can't pass it. This would eliminate 90% of all Gutenberg copies from the outset since most are so poorly formatted.

I hope Amazon will reconsider their position on this.
555aaa

Posts: 279
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Re: Publishing Public Domain Works Through KDP
Posted: Jun 20, 2012 7:52 AM   in response to: punchygonzales in response to: punchygonzales
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I totally agree, Punchy. I have worked on three "public domain" titles, which are not available for free elsewhere, and it can run into a few hundred hours of work for a large, traditional book. These often have dozens of woodcuts, complex notes, greek and latin text, and so forth. Producing a clean, new scan, cleaning up the text, formatting, indexing, and researching is a very large task.

Contrast this with the situation in print books, where Amazon sells paper copies from publishers who have simply scanned a public domain title and provided no clean-up whatsoever. These books are basically unreadable and sometimes incomplete but there is no warning to the buyer.
555aaa

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Re: Publishing Public Domain Works Through KDP
Posted: Jun 20, 2012 7:57 AM   in response to: punchygonzales in response to: punchygonzales
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Punchy - send me a link to your website:

brucev@mondellopublishing.com
notjohn

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Re: Publishing Public Domain Works Through KDP
Posted: Jun 20, 2012 9:33 AM   in response to: punchygonzales in response to: punchygonzales
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When was PD banned? I thought the rule of thumb was: 25 percent original content and it's not even PD!

Step 2 in the publishing process is to indicate whether or not the book is PD. What's the point of that, if PD is banned?
punchygonzales

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Re: Publishing Public Domain Works Through KDP
Posted: Jun 20, 2012 3:06 PM   in response to: notjohn in response to: notjohn
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About two weeks ago they made it official Kevin and announced they wouldn't allow anymore uploads of PD material through KDP, but unoiffically they've been rejecting PD books for the last year or so.
skookumpete

Posts: 466
Registered: 07/25/11
Re: Publishing Public Domain Works Through KDP
Posted: Jun 20, 2012 9:01 PM   in response to: punchygonzales in response to: punchygonzales
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About two weeks ago they made it official Kevin and
announced they wouldn't allow anymore uploads of PD
material through KDP, but unoiffically they've been
rejecting PD books for the last year or so.

This is news to me, and Amazon has certainly been accepting public-domain titles in the last year. Since Feb. 2011 the rule has been that they will not accept a submission if there is already a [u]free[/u] version in the catalog, unless it is sufficiently "differentiated". This is to keep people from submitting yet more editions of popular titles.

Can you provide a pointer to any announcement of a new policy? I see no change at https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=200743940 .

Edit: I found this article: http://www.thedominoproject.com/2012/05/amazon-bans-junk-ebooks.html
and I don't see anything new in it. Amazon are simply clarifying that they won't accept "scraped" and repackaged content. The mere existence of a book in some form on the internet is not enough to get it banned from Kindle. Take a look at this list, for instance, all recently "published": http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_2?_encoding=UTF8&search-alias=digital-text&field-author=Cristo%20Raul

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skookumpete

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Re: Publishing Public Domain Works Through KDP
Posted: Jun 20, 2012 9:14 PM   in response to: 555aaa in response to: 555aaa
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it can run into a few hundred
hours of work for a large, traditional book. These
often have dozens of woodcuts, complex notes, greek
and latin text, and so forth. Producing a clean, new
scan, cleaning up the text, formatting, indexing,
and researching is a very large task.

Contrast this with the situation in print books,
where Amazon sells paper copies from publishers who
have simply scanned a public domain title and
provided no clean-up whatsoever. These books are
basically unreadable and sometimes incomplete but
there is no warning to the buyer.


So true. My very first message on this board was to complain about the fact that Amazon had accepted a crap conversion (no footnotes or diagrams, Greek text omitted, etc. etc.) of a title that I was selling in a good edition -- and had even allowed it to supplant my version in search results! Since then they have accepted yet another edition. Neither of these competitors makes it clear that their versions omit a large part of the book, and in fact one is in two separate volumes that are not labelled as such. It's infuriating, when you have spent weeks painstakingly producing an edition that is worthy of the original and makes Kindle look good.

And yes, they ought to do something about the proliferation of print-on-demand editions made from images of scanned library copies. I don't even consider these "books" and they are doing nothing but cluttering the namespace, confusing customers, and making it pointless for anyone to bring out a really good reprint or, for that matter, a Kindle conversion.
tomrodi

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Registered: 10/31/11
Re: Publishing Public Domain Works Through KDP
Posted: Jun 21, 2012 1:06 AM   in response to: punchygonzales in response to: punchygonzales
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About two weeks ago they made it official Kevin and
announced they wouldn't allow anymore uploads of PD
material through KDP

No they didn't, despite what press and parts of the bloggosphere seem to believe. They did cjhange the rules slightly two weeks ago, but this did not change anything about PD works.
For about half a year now the rules on PD have been pretty clear: PD is acceptable, but it needs to be diferentiated in contrast to any editions already available on Kindle.
Differentiated works include such things as works not prevously available on Kindle, illustrated editions, commented editions etc.

What amazon did stop two weeks ago was the flood of works that just collect Wikipedia entries and sell those as books.
hardwarehero

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Registered: 02/15/10
Re: Publishing Public Domain Works Through KDP
Posted: Jun 21, 2012 4:23 AM   in response to: tomrodi in response to: tomrodi
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That's correct, they still accept PD content. However I would stay away from that stuff for the time being because I believe that Amazon has lost control. My account is currently blocked because of a book that contains lectures on a very popular religious book which is freely available. As a matter of fact, it sometimes quotes and citates the free book. Amazon's bot spotted these few sentences (not the 95% that were exclusive content) and blocked my account. No email or explanation from KDP support since Monday. Sending them two emails for clarification did not help. Okay, this is an assumption because nobody tells me what's up, but going through the work of the last days it would be the only explanation.

At the same time there are many many public domain titles without an annotation still available, e.g. these ones: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=lewis+carroll#/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=fair+price+classics&rh=n%3A133140011%2Ck%3Afair+price+classics. For whatever reason this publisher seems to stay untouched and sells Gutenberg versions as they are. I also spotted some classics that were published in the last 30 days and use a Wikipedia annotation with uncloaked links.

This leads to the conclusion that there should be less bots and more educated humans in Seattle. This is all a bit like a fire-at-will mentality completely lacking a red line. We will see where this leads to.
punchygonzales

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Registered: 11/26/11
Re: Publishing Public Domain Works Through KDP
Posted: Jun 21, 2012 6:20 AM   in response to: tomrodi in response to: tomrodi
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They used to say that they would accept PD material upon their discretion more or less, but they're saying they won't take it at all:

[b]"We will not accept content that is freely available on the web unless you are the copyright owner of that content. For example, if you received your book content from a source that allows you and others to re-distribute it, and the content is freely available on the web, WE WILL NOT ACCEPT IT for sale on the Kindle store."[/b]

Actually they quit taking it a long time but never officially said it till now.

"PD is acceptable, but it needs to be diferentiated in contrast to any editions already available on Kindle.
Differentiated works include such things as works not prevously available on Kindle, illustrated editions, commented editions etc."

Who do you know that's been able to upload anything like that in the last year through KDP? I don't know of a single person who has. Amazon rejects it every time. For instance, I couldn't sell this one at Amazon even though two of the three stories have never been sold in digital form before and are not available on the web anywhere. And of the one that is avaliable, it's riddled with errors:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/father-brown-leftovers-gk-chesterton/1107843978?ean=2940013439023

Talk is still a very cheap commodity. Amazon may say that they'll take certain kinds of PD material, but they reality is that they won't.
punchygonzales

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Registered: 11/26/11
Re: Publishing Public Domain Works Through KDP
Posted: Jun 21, 2012 6:29 AM   in response to: hardwarehero in response to: hardwarehero
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"For whatever reason this publisher seems to stay untouched and sells Gutenberg versions as they are."

This publisher has only published 5-books since January - 2011, and nothing at all since Sep 11, 2011. Like I said, about a year ago everything changed. He was lucky to even get those last five through.
punchygonzales

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Registered: 11/26/11
Re: Publishing Public Domain Works Through KDP
Posted: Jun 21, 2012 6:33 AM   in response to: 555aaa in response to: 555aaa
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"I have worked on three "public domain" titles, which are not available for free elsewhere, and it can run into a few hundred hours of work for a large, traditional book. These often have dozens of woodcuts, complex notes, greek and latin text, and so forth. Producing a clean, new scan, cleaning up the text, formatting, indexing, and researching is a very large task."

Not to mention getting the best edition to copy from in the first place and fixing whatever errors there are in it. And it often takes a scholar specializing in an author to know these facts. I blogged about this last week and will reproduce it here:
~~~~~

[b]What’s Wrong With Gutenberg & Why There Will Always Be A Classic Book Reprint Market[/b]

I’ve downloaded tons of free public domain books from Gutenberg and other sites like it that offer free old books, many of them classics. It’s wonderful that people have gone to the trouble to scan and digitize so many thousands of books around the world. However, for many years anyone could scan and upload a book to Gutenberg. The website relied on the people doing the digitizing to proofread the books themselves. The problem was that most did a poor job of it, thus many texts at the site have many errors in them. A couple of years ago, Gutenberg teamed with a company called Distributed Proofreaders in order to properly proofread the texts. They also do most of the scanning/OCR work and even pick out most of the books that get uploaded to Gutenberg’s American website. Of course, the American site only constitutes 1/4th of all the books at Gutenberg’s worldwide sites, most of whom don’t have a decent proofreading process.

While I applaud the effort from Distributed Proofreaders to help out Gutenberg, I still see a big problem here. They say:

[i]"The Project Managers pick whatever books we can find. Due to US copyright laws, we are severely limited in the books we are allowed to work with. We go to Used & Rare bookshops and scour the Internet websites & auctions. We check out rare books from libraries and scan them. We obtain page images from other archive sites. We try to find books that we think people would enjoy reading and that we can find at an acceptable price."[/i]

Gee, wouldn't it be nice to actually bother finding the most correct edition of the book rather than "whatever books we can find." Do you know how many errors are fixed in subsequent editions of print books? Plenty. For that matter, many old books have been sliced and diced over the years by editors for various reasons, often religious ones, to the point of it being a painstaking process putting together a correct edition today. A great example (among dozens I could give) is James Hogg's The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner. Only the original 1824 Longman's 1st edition had the text in it's entirety until Oxford Press came out with one in 1981. That 1st edition generally goes for better than $1,000 if you're lucky enough to find one. And even that edition had at least seven typesetting errors that I'm aware of (and considering Hogg's mixture of Scotch and English spellings, only a scholar would catch). I’m not sure of the exact size of the original print run, but I know it was very small. The next edition was in 1837. It had 115 pages omitted and the text was so heavily redacted that it bore little resemblance to the original. For the next hundred years or more, nearly every subsequent edition relied on the 1837 edition making them also incorrect. L Shiells and Co. came out with an 1895 edition which claimed to follow the original, but scholar John Carey found it had errors or omissions on all but three of its 266 pages. Campion Reprints in 1924, and later Cresset Press in 1947, both came out with reprints that also followed the 1824 1st edition, but they both changed some of Hogg's deliberate (and often playful) spellings and some of the punctuation. Thus, it wasn't until 1981 that a decent reprint of the 1st edition came out by Oxford Press (even fixing the seven errors in the original.) But while the original text in not under copyright, Oxford Press' version is, so you cannot use it legally to copy from for Gutenberg. Not that any of the amateurs scanning texts willy-nilly for Gutenberg would know, or care about, true scholarly work anyway, and herein lies the problem.

What I just described is all too common of old books. Editors thought nothing of redacting (even vandalizing) earlier editions. It takes a true scholar to really scour out all the editions he/she can find and to analyze them with great scrutiny. This often requires having an intimate knowledge of the author’s entire cannon and having familiarized himself with whatever biographical material he can find on the writer. For instance, in the 1837 edition of the book by Hogg mentioned above, the editor, D.O. Hill, made the rather absurd claim that Hogg himself had done the final emendations. This would have included his having chopped out every single reference the original text had made against the Calvinist doctrine of predestination. However, James Hogg argued against predestination his entire life. To think he would have changed the text in this way is simply ludicrous. It also took away the entire scope and meaning of the book which was itself almost entirely an argument against predestination. Take away that argument and there’s little left worth printing.

But how many people uploading books to Gutenberg, whether on their own or through Distributed Proofreaders, have the scholarly training to select the right editions of texts and to make the correct emendations in them where necessary? This, in my opinion, is a great oversight by Gutenberg and other public domain text aggregators. These books should be selected and edited by true scholars with a great knowledge of a particular author’s life and works.

I’m not trying to be overly critical. Gutenberg is trying to do a good thing and probably are doing it the best they can. They’re a volunteer effort working with little funding. They can no more afford to pay scholars to do this work than you or I could. But this is also exactly why there will always be a market for fine editions of reprints by real publishers who take the time to do things right.
hardwarehero

Posts: 1,630
Registered: 02/15/10
Re: Publishing Public Domain Works Through KDP
Posted: Jun 21, 2012 8:28 AM   in response to: punchygonzales in response to: punchygonzales
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"PD is acceptable, but it needs to be diferentiated in contrast to any editions already available on Kindle.
Differentiated works include such things as works not prevously available on Kindle, illustrated editions, commented editions etc."

Punchy, is this from an Amazon email or do you have a link for this? I never heard that before. My understanding, and I got that in writing from their IP department, is that an annotation is only necessary if the book itself is in the free section. Everything that is not does not need to be annotated (what does not mean that Amazon would not reject it for whatever reasons).

tomrodi

Posts: 294
Registered: 10/31/11
Re: Publishing Public Domain Works Through KDP
Posted: Jun 21, 2012 8:30 AM   in response to: punchygonzales in response to: punchygonzales
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They used to say that they would accept PD material
upon their discretion more or less, but they're
saying they won't take it at all:

[b]"We will not accept content that is freely
available on the web unless you are the copyright
owner of that content. For example, if you received
your book content from a source that allows you and
others to re-distribute it, and the content is freely
available on the web, WE WILL NOT ACCEPT IT for sale
on the Kindle store."[/b]


The text has one more sentence after that. You skipped that one: [b]We do accept public domain content, however we may choose to not sell a public domain book if its content is undifferentiated or barely differentiated from one or more other books.[/b]
Kinda important on that point.

Who do you know that's been able to upload anything
like that in the last year through KDP? I don't know
of a single person who has.
Myself. 2 in December, one in February. I don't know what the problem with your uploads might be, but I had no trouble whatsoever with PD works. I'm preparing another one and will get back here when it is either done or did give me a headache as per your prediction.
skookumpete

Posts: 466
Registered: 07/25/11
Re: Publishing Public Domain Works Through KDP
Posted: Jun 21, 2012 8:36 AM   in response to: punchygonzales in response to: punchygonzales
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Punchy, you're talking through your hat. Please read my post above. I provided a link to a long list of public-domain titles that have been accepted by Amazon in the last few months. I myself have published a title within the last month and had no problems at all, even though there is a PDF file freely available on the web.

Also (tomrodi et al.) could we please stop repeating the myth that Amazon does not accept titles that are already in the Kindle store. It does not accept undifferentiated books that are already available [b]free[/b] in the Kindle store. Again, I made this point in a post above, and I lament the fact that Amazon continues to accept crap Gutenberg conversions even when they compete with carefully edited editions put out by conscientious publishers.
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