Monday, December 28, 2009

The Year in Publishing, 2009

This last year has been, in many ways, a watershed year for publishing as both the failing economy and the drastic changes in distribution have stressed the major publishers' bottom line and the way they have always done business.

However, probably the most important news has been the war for control over content, for without content, none of the other news matters. Here are some of the things that have happened this year.

Amazon's attempt at a closed Kindle system failed, and they are opening up the Kindle to other sources of ebooks in both format and distribution sites.

Other ebook readers and distributors have fought back against Amazon's dominance of the market.

Amazon's Kindle's text-to-speech feature raised an uproar because Amazon was grabbing a right they hadn't contracted for, and they were forced to drop TTS.

Amazon has controlled ebook prices by imposing the $9.99 price point on most ebooks, and other distributors are following along. They also started a price war on paper bestsellers.

Google attempted to control content by trying to make all books, no matter what the copyright status, available for free on the web. Publishers and authors have fought them back on this issue.

Google declared "dibs" on books out of copyright and orphaned copyright books, but publishers, other distributors, and author organizations have screamed foul and are fighting it.

Many of the epublishers who have been around for years are being acquired by other epublishers. The latest acquisition is Hard Shell Word Factory by Mundania.

A number of the large conglomerate publishers, including Simon & Schuster, are making drastic reductions in ebook royalty rates.

Random House is again saying that old publishing contracts signed before ebooks existed give them ebook rights to books by authors such as William Styron. They have fought this battle once before and capitulated when they sued Rosetta Books for copyright infringement.

Many of these events and issues will be still in contention in the next few years so we're in for some interesting times.

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