Thursday, November 17, 2011

An Invitation to Comment: Gathering Nonfiction E-Book Data/Opinions from YOU!

Saving OP books, giving new life to in-print but barely moving books, or adding a layered, multi-dimensional platform to a healthy title—these are just three of the common reasons publishers, editors, and authors are discussing the world of electronic books as it applies to nonfiction. Most of us have e-book clauses in our contracts, but as the e-world is rapidly changing, so our rights, which has authors and publishers clamoring to figure out the best ways to proceed.

At least for right now, there doesn’t seem to be a clear answer and it can be very book-specific when it comes to nonfiction. In contrast, I have plenty of fiction writer friends who are successfully getting their e-book rights back (generally from OP or almost-OP books) and publishing in this format on their own—for 100% of the profits, minus expenses. But when photo rights and book designs factor so heavily into the final product of a nonfiction book, things are much trickier. If the e-rights for photos have not already been secured for an older NF book, it is not necessarily feasible from a time or money standpoint to track them down again. I certainly make sure I have e-rights for photos now, but that wasn’t the case a few years back.

Read this recent INK post from Jim Murphy for his perspective on one aspect of this issue. And Marc Aronson has tackled this topic in his SLJ blog, Nonfiction Matters, here and here. I think it would be worthwhile as well as illuminating to have NF writers and publishers, as well as readers, teachers, and librarians share some of their thoughts and insights, to see what some of the varied experiences are. I am also quite interested in hearing from people about what they think the future will hold.

Please weigh in with your comments!


Myra Zarnowski said...

As a teacher and teacher-educator, I would be thrilled to have access to nonfiction e-books for me and my students. Not only would it be cost effective--a major consideration--but we would not have to store hundreds of books! I think teachers would use more nonfiction if they had easy, affordable access. Something that might warm your hearts is this comment I recently received from an undergraduate who just finished writing a social studies unit (assigned by me): "If my planning begins with the books, it's so much easier!" That simple realization made my day.

Unknown said...

Because I illustrate my own books it wasn’t until reading some I.N.K. authors‘ comments that I realized what a huge dilemma the e-rights (or lack thereof) for photographs poses. I agree there doesn‘t seem to be an easy path towards a digital edition if photo e-rights are difficult/costly to obtain.

Also, redesigning the book for a digital edition is another issue. I had to make a lot of changes in Tracks in the Sand to make it work for the iPad/iBookstore format. ( Link to my I.N.K. post about it.)

Perhaps the “glass half full” way to think about it is that the inherent obstacles will reduce competition. While also assuming there will be a robust market for e-nonfiction…which I think there will be.

Peggy T said...

Thank you, Tanya,(Marc and Jim), for bringing this problem to the public. I recently signed a not so favorable contract that clarified the digital rights to an illustrated NF book with Charlesbridge. Not being the illlustrator, I felt it was better left to the publisher to figure out how to adapt it to an e-book. My other pubishers have yet to think or act on the the digital trend. Perhaps they too are stumped at how to manage the permissions problem and design work. I would love to learn more about e-books and NF's place in the market, and what kinds of permissions an author needs to pursue it on their own.
Peggy Thomas

Deborah Heiligman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Deborah Heiligman said...

I haven't given that much thought--perhaps not enough thought-- to getting my op books back in print as e-books. But I do have two biographies published by a company that then stopped publishing kids' books that might make great e-books. They are illustrated with line art, so I bet it would be possible. As for the future, I kind of dream of a way we could write nonfiction books as books, and then have enhanced e-book editions. The e-book editions would have links and layers, and would be multi-media (is that still a term?). They would be a different kind of animal--not to replace the paper books, but to give the reader a different experience altogether. That said, I have no idea how to do it, and I'm hoping some brilliant publishers are figuring that out.

Unknown said...

one thing we all need to keep in mind is that libaries are accessing ebooks through wholesalers such as Overdrive or Follett, and they do not yet, or necessarily, carry NF which requires formats which retain the page design, rather than reflowing words as you can for a straight text novel. So not only do we need to think of getting rights back, but how we plan on having our books sold and distributed to libraries.

Unknown said...

there is one key and missing point here-- libraries are using vendors such as Overdrive or Follett to purchase (or subscribe to access to) ebooks; those vendors so far prefer straight text novels where they text can reflow, not books like ours where design matters and text needs to move with art in a defined relationship. So even as we think about rights and opportunities we also have to think about how we plan to get to school and public libraries.

Unknown said...

It is my understanding that Overdrive carries PDFs for libraries to purchase. For example, this library's link says you can download/read PDFs with the Bluefire app:

A PDF can have a fixed layout, unlike a reflowable EPUB. Another question is whether the ebook/PDF is designed to fit a variety of devices. In other words a double page spread with a lot of detail will be very hard to read on an iPad vs. a desktop computer.

By the way, an EPUB can have a fixed layout, such as my iBook Tracks in the Sand. I doubt Overdrive et al supports that, but am not sure. The new Kindle Fire will also have a fixed layout format for illustrated books.

Unknown said...

INK is about to become a publisher and we are currently exploring the best platforms for our work. I can assure you that the terms will be very favorable to authors and that the BRAND of iNK Books & Media will come to have some weight in the marketplace. The biggest hurdle is the free-for-all wild west of everyone publishing all kinds of stuff which will make it hard for buyers to find work with real value. The brand of INK will resolve some of that.