Tuesday, August 25, 2015

10 Biggest Publishing Scandals

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Being the large economic force that it is, the publishing industry has seen its fair share of scandals over the years. A few bad apples, unfortunately, can ruin the whole bunch.

Here are the 10 biggest publishing scandals:

1.     The Apple Ebook Lawsuit – Apple and a number of large publishers were caught up in a price fixing scandal which resulted in fines and repayments of over $450 million dollars.

2.     2012 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction – The final candidates for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction were down to Swamplandia! by Karen Russell, The Pale King by David Foster Wallace, and Train Dreams by Denis Johnson. Unfortunately, the committee choosing the prize, upon receiving the ranked list from the Pulitzer Prize Board, declined to choose a winner and opted to award no prize. No explanation was given for their decision.

3.     A Million Little Pieces – The memoir by James Frey about his drug addiction. While presented as truth, nearly the entire book turned out to be false.

4.     News International phone hacking scandal – In 2011, members of the staff of News of the World were accused of police bribery, intimidation, and the printing of false information.

5.     Amazon v. Barnes & Noble – This scandal affects books being published on the Amazon publishing platform (their imprint, not the self-publishing side). Barnes & Noble has basically outright stated that they will not sell books published by Amazon on their Nook devices.

6.     Textbook Publishing – The textbook industry in the United States primarily funnels through one area: A Texas review board. This board determines what books can be used in what areas of the country and many other things. Many academics and citizens staunchly disagree with this one sided process.

7.     Fake research papers – One of the largest scandals in science publishing is the existence of an entire industry based out of China solely for the purpose of publishing fake research papers.

8.     Sokal affair – This was an incident in 1996 in which a professor named Sokal submitted a fake article to Social Text, a journal focusing on postmodern cultural studies, just to see if they would publish an article composed mostly of nonsense. They did exactly that.

9.     Machine generated journal articles – Back to the world of science publishing, a French researcher named Labbe discovered over one hundred journal articles that were proven to be fakes generated by a computer. He published these findings in Nature.

10.  JT LeRoy – A supposed former male drug addict and drag queen who authored a memoir and began appearing on radio talk shows and doing interviews. The story turned out to be made up and the true name of JT LeRoy was found out to be Samantha Knoop.

Every aspect of the publishing industry has seen scandal. These scandals do nothing but promote mistrust and lower the profits of the industry as a whole.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Websites Known for Book Piracy

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Along with an increased level of digital media and the digitalization and monetization of print has come an increased level of piracy and illegal sharing of copyrighted documents. This, in turn, has led to a number of issues in the E-book industry that affect authors, publishers, editors, and literary agents. The ease with which books can be digitized and shared has never been higher. Compounding this issue is the fact that most of the files are very small and can be shared easily.

There are a few websites well known for book piracy, though many of them host other pirated materials as well. These sites both illegally host book uploads and damage the economy of the publishing industry as a whole:

·       EbooksHeaven – Ebooks Heaven is a site primarily created and run for the sole purpose of sharing copyrighted books and digitized print material.

·       BitMe – BitMe is a private tracker (only accepting new members through either rare open signups or through an invitation from a current member) which specializes in torrents for textbooks and academic texts.

·       The Pirate Bay – Pirate Bay is one of the most well-known torrent sites. While they do not focus only on books like some other trackers do, Pirate Bay has an extremely large and extensive collection of fiction, non-fiction, and textbook torrents.

·       Kickass Torrents – Kickass Torrents is a search engine for torrents which catalogues torrent files hosted on other websites and condenses them into one location. They have an extensive book selection in their list of torrents.

·       4-Shared – 4-Shared is a website that hosts uploaded files. It is often used by pirates to host their uploaded E-books. Books are often hosted as PDFs or epub files. The site has been known to remove hosted content, but only if it has been flagged.

·       Scribd – Scribd is a large E-book repository. They operate as a legitimate business, but have an upload/download service that makes it extremely easy for pirates to share copyrighted material with very little to no consequence.

·       Textbook Nova – Textbook Nova is another torrent tracker providing torrents for textbooks and academic texts.

·       EbookShares – EbookShares is another private tracker hosting torrent files for books.

·       Bibliotik – Bibliotik is one of the premier E-book sharing sites on the Internet. It is, like many of the others, private. This one only shows a blank login page for non-members.

·       Demonoid – Demonoid is another torrent hosting site which features pirated movies, books, and music. They have an extensive section in which book torrents are shared. Though the site features a log-in and account section, anyone can download from the site.

Administrators of these websites often modify the ‘robots.txt’ file on their server to prevent search engines from cataloguing the items that are located there. This makes it very difficult for copyright holders to determine where their work is being shared. Though private trackers have less web traffic (and, thus, less users) than public trackers and other websites, there is nothing preventing a user who downloads a file from hosting that file on any other site. Any site that hosts torrents or offers easy upload capabilities is going to have its share of printed and copyrighted book material being shared; legally or illegally. This sharing cuts into profits and damages the integrity of the work being done by authors and other members of the publishing chain.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Cost of Book Piracy

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Given the increased popularity of E-books and digital copies of print material, the economics of digital reading has exploded. This means increased readership for authors, publishers, and agents representing their clients in the marketplace. All of this, eventually, translates into increased profits. A major factor that is disrupting the booming E-book industry is the prevalence of pirates and pirated material in the marketplace. This is particularly true given the lack of digital rights management (DRM) on digital books.

Specific Costs of Book Piracy

There are many aspects to this problem, only one of which is the time and effort that must be spent removing pirated books from websites that they are located on. The amount of money lost to this effort depends on the amount of money charged per hour by the individual performing the takedown notices. For freelance workers, this could be upwards of $100 an hour.

It is estimated that around 10% of the books currently being read in the United States are pirated texts. This has led to estimates and reports that the publishing industry (and the authors on whose behalf they work) has lost upwards of $3 billion. This includes potential lost sales based on the number of shared copies of books estimated to be in circulation at any given time. These losses trickle down from the publishers at the top of the industry down to the authors providing their work.

It is often difficult to assess exactly how much money is being lost to book piracy due to the fact that digital media is capable of being easily copied. This makes the economics of loss more difficult than it would be when determining loss of physical stock. Losing fifty books in a store is going to be a fixed cost. On the other hand, having fifty books copied and uploaded to sharing sites is a dynamic cost.

Copyright Law Fees

The cost of fighting book piracy is another aspect of the situation. Hiring a lawyer to help with a copyright issue can become an entire issue unto itself, but it usually starts with paying somewhere between $10 and $50 dollars for a paralegal at a given law firm to look over the facts of the case and decide whether it is worth pursuing.  If they do, the fees will vary depending on the exact nature of the claim, but usually run between $200 and $300 an hour. These fees can add up very quickly and make filing copyright claims almost impossible for most authors.