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eBooks and Agents

Two interesting ebook questions: when will publishers get around to releasing the backlist as ebooks, and who will be the quality gatekeepers in a world of self-publishing? You may think the second question is a moot point, and can be answered by some form of collective criticism, aka Metafilter, but I’m going to throw out some relevant news anyhow.

As I understand it, part of the problem with the first question is that publishers don’t own the ebook rights to their backlist. It wasn’t part of the standard contract back in the dark ages of the 1980s and 1990s and 2000s. This means authors can do it themselves, if they like. Please take a moment to read this post from John Scalzi before continuing.

This summer, literary agent Andrew Wylie realized that he had a bunch of clients who had great backlists which could be profitably released as ebooks without the added cost of involving a publisher. We’re talking people like John Updike, who do not need as much marketing for their backlist as others. So he tried that. Alas, it did not work out entirely well.

However, the (primarily) SF&F agency JABberwocky recently did the same thing. So that’s kind of interesting.


  1. Chrysoula Chrysoula

    Relevant To My Interests.

    I don’t really think something like Metafilter is going to work. As far as I know, Metafilter does require a number of people to peruse an entertainment thing for it to develop a rating. I’m pretty sure the number of manuscripts produced on a daily basis far exceeds the capacity of those parties interested in mining crap for gold. So it’s a real problem.

    OK, I’m reading your links now.

    • I don’t either, but some people do.

  2. Chris K Chris K

    I was struck by this today – I came across some Dennis McKiernan books at Half Price Books, and thought “Oh, those would be great to re-read, I wonder if I can pick them up for the Kindle.” And of course, the answer is no. I can spend $1.50 on the used book, for which the author gets nothing. There’s no way I can give the author money to read the book, and there’s no good way I can read a digital edition. I suppose I could buy the used book, cut the spine, scan it, and OCR it.

    In conclusion, I really miss the idea that copyright could expire.

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