Late last year, we wrote about a legal fight, where Random House was fighting some of its authors who claimed that their old publishing contracts did not cover ebooks. Those authors wanted to go off and publish ebooks via other partners (or even directly themselves). Random House tried to claim that even though the contracts didn’t specifically cover ebooks, that it was more or less implied. The problem, of course, was that Random House had already lost a case about this very issue years back. So, this April, the company was forced to concede with the one author they were fighting — though it claimed this was an “exception.”
Except some other big name, old time authors know better. They’ve been realizing that they could be free to take their ebook versions elsewhere, and now they’re doing exactly that. A bunch of really well known authors, working via their agents, have decided to route around their publishers and offer some of the most popular books of all time as ebooks directly on Amazon’s Kindle, without going through a publishing house. Among the books released through this effort are works from Philip Roth, Martin Amis, Vladimir Nabokov, Hunter S Thompson, John Updike, William Burroughs and Saul Bellow along with many others. Basically, some of the biggest names in literature from the 20th century.
This only works for a subset of authors, those who gained popularity before the publishers realized digital books were a necessary part of any contract. These guys fell through the loophole but will be ble to serve as a nice demonstration of what is possible for an established author if they can go directly to their audience.
Another instance of how digital makes it easier for an artist to reach their audience, even as it makes it possible to create copies of the art. I think that it is likely that reaching a much wider audience will have positive effects over the negative effects of free copies. 7-% royalties vs 25% could do that.
We shall see.