The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organizations (UNESCO) celebrated World Book and Copyright Day on April 23. According to the website (http://bit.ly/UNESCO_Copyright), "By celebrating this Day throughout the world, UNESCO seeks to promote reading, publishing and the protection of intellectual property through copyright."
The selection of April 23 was not accidental, as that date has a strong tie to literature. Many luminaries of classic literature either were born or died on this day: Cervantes, Shakespeare, Nabokov, among many others. One of the main goals is to encourage a "renewed respect for the irreplaceable contributions of those who have furthered the social and cultural progress of humanity."
One way of showing respect for the creators of intellectual property, author and publisher, is to respect the ownership of that property. Too often EPICureans are alerted to pirates and piracy sites, for whom our electronically published books are easy prey. I urge you all to add the following to your sig lines to alert all, especially your fans:
Report ebook piracy: http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx.
But there is another way our intellectual property is disrespected. These other "disrespecters" are not pirates, because they are in contractual relationships with publishers or self-published authors. They sell the books legally, they report sales, and even pay a cut of the sales to the publisher for distribution to authors. The trouble is that cut is getting smaller and smaller as they fight among themselves for market share. They are Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Fictionwise. This last one is the most troubling, as Fictionwise was a good friend of independent electronic publishing before the sale of the company to Barnes and Noble.
The price wars between the big on-line booksellers of eBooks have hurt our independent publishers and their authors, threatening the economic vitality of our publishers and the opportunity of our authors to earn money from their intellectual property. What can EPIC do in the face of this assault on our members' deserved earnings? EPIC, after all, is a small group, whose voice is not yet recognized as The Voice of Electronic Publishing in the wider world.
That's got to change. We have to become bigger, louder, and more influential in our industry. Our first steps are to give us a more professional face by changing our name to focus on our industry, create a Strategic Plan, and update our website to make it more a place for information on industry issues. While we're getting these things done, we also have to engage the "disrespecters." The question is how? How vocal should EPIC be? What should be our message? Do we engage each bookseller individually? As an organization? Should our Publisher Coalition be the representative?
We are a Capuchin monkey in a world of 800-lb gorillas. We need to be discrete, but direct. And I'm looking for your input on how EPIC, as an organization, should respond to the price wars and the assault on our right to receive a fair return on our intellectual property.