France’s Writers Sold Down The River

Google’s e-book deal could slow rise of Amazon Kindle in Europe

While it’s too early to say when (or if) the French e-book scheme will take off, there does appear to be one early loser in the deal. According to reports in Le Figaro and publishing site ActuaLitté, the agreement does not allow the publishers to distribute the digital books through Google’s direct competitors — read: Amazon.

What this means in practice is that Amazon may be excluded from a significant volume of content at a time when it is expanding its push into Europe with the Kindle and app store (there are also reports the company may launch the Kindle Fire too). If the Google e-books take off, Amazon will be the odd one out as the e-books can be read directly on devices made by Sony or Barnes & Noble or through the Google Play app on Apple devices.

Boldfaced emphasis added by me. No mention of how the writers have been sold down the river.

And while there’s a mention of how this isn’t really so bad because people can read these books on any device that has a Play Books app — making it OK for many readers — what it ignores is that writers are locked into Google’s UI, Google’s bookstore, and whatever Google says will be their monetary cut and other terms.

This is exactly what writer Ursula K. Le Guin feared would happen in the United States and which prompted her resignation from the Authors Guild. And this is significant too:

This week’s agreement is significant because it coincides with a French law that creates a new royalty collection mechanism for e-books.

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

“Coincides”? This is no coincidence. The Google lobbying fix has been in from the start, ever since word of that disastrous French move was made public. That reeked of Google’s handiwork. The French themselves are just otherwise not that stupid nor so cavalier about their own culture.

Google will now use this agreement as an argument here in the U.S., regarding the ongoing Google Book Search litigation. I hope Judge Chin is smart enough to see what’s going on here. But I have little hope that he will.  Wail all you want about how Amazon “dominates” — but it does so without the Fist of the State compelling all writers to sell through it.

What has happened in France is the biggest outrage ever in the history of publishing, literature, and the rights of writers.


France Chooses Profit For Publishers Over Authors’ Rights And Public Libraries

image by Moyan_Brenn

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