Sunday, December 13, 2009

Media week 50: Random House, Dissertations, Cormac McCarthy, Ian Dury

Random House is taking an aggressive stand on the rights they assume over digital versions of their backlists are reported in The Wall Street Journal:
In the letter, dated Dec. 11, Markus Dohle, CEO of the Bertelsmann AG publishing arm, writes that the "vast majority of our backlist contracts grant us the exclusive right to publish books in electronic formats." Mr. Dohle writes that many of the older agreements "often give the exclusive right to publish 'in book form' or 'in any and all editions.' "

"I don't accept Random House's position, and I don't think anybody else will either," Mr. Sobel said. "You are entitled to the rights stated in your contract. And contracts 20 years ago didn't cover electronic rights. And the courts have already agreed with this position."

Stuart Applebaum, a spokesman for Random House, said, "We believe Random House has the right to publish our authors' backlist titles as e-books. We think we can do the best job for our authors' e-books."

The story was also covered by The NYT:

The discussions about the digital fate of Mr. Styron’s work are similar to the negotiations playing out across the book industry as publishers hustle to capture the rights to release e-book versions of so-called backlist books. Indeed, the same new e-book venture Mr. Styron’s family hopes to use has run into similar resistance from the print publisher of “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller.

On Friday, Markus Dohle, chief executive of Random House, sent a letter to dozens of literary agents, writing that the company’s older agreements gave it “the exclusive right to publish in electronic book publishing formats.”Backlist titles, which continue to be reprinted long after their initial release, are crucial to publishing houses because of their promise of lucrative revenue year after year. But authors and agents are particularly concerned that traditional publishers are not offering sufficient royalties on e-book editions, which they point out are cheaper for publishers to produce. Some are considering taking their digital rights elsewhere, which could deal a financial blow to the hobbled publishing industry.

UC Berkeley: Paper is out, digital is in, when it comes to dissertations (Link)
For the last few years, Berkeley students have been able to file their ProQuest copy digitally, but Lemontt says few took advantage because they still needed to produce a perfect printed copy for the library. The move to all-electronic has been in the works for a year or more, according to Lemontt. The Graduate Council signed off on it in October.In addition to making Berkeley students' research far more widely available, going electronic is "a major step in line with campus 'green' initiatives" and also is in line with Chancellor Robert Birgeneau's directive to streamline business processes, according to an August memo from Graduate Dean Andrew Szeri to council chair Ronald Cohen.Revisions of the library's procedures made the cataloguing of electronic papers possible. The final hurdles were concerns that that research published instantly online might be more susceptible to plagiarism, and that some students might want to delay digital publication while they revise their dissertation into a publishable book.
There's a movie out about Ian Dury and an interview with his son Baxter. (Link)

Cormac McCarthy talks about The Road The Road tops our pool of the decade’s best 100 books. In a rare interview, its author, Cormac McCarthy, talks about religion, fatherhood and the future of humanity. (Link)

The writer himself, however, has proved more elusive. He won’t be found at book festivals, readings and other places where novelists gather. McCarthy prefers hanging out with “smart people” outside his field, such as professional poker players and the thinkers at the Santa Fe Institute, a theoretical science foundation in New Mexico where he has been a longtime Fellow.

In recent years his circle has inched farther into Hollywood. Now, set for release in January, is a screen adaptation of The Road. As intimate as it is grim, the book tells the story of a man’s bond with his young son as the two struggle for survival years after a cataclysm has erased society. The novel won a Pulitzer Prize in 2007 and was promoted heavily by Oprah Winfrey as a surprising selection for her book club.

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