Last week the internet was ablaze with the Cooks Source debacle. For those who might not know what I’m referring to, here’s my post on it. There are links in the post where you can find more background information. Since then, the folks at Cooks Source have issued an apology (of sorts).
I say “of sorts” because they still don’t admit they did anything wrong in using an article without permission or recompense. Nor have they addressed the comment made by their representative that anything on the internet is in the “public domain”. You can read their statement here. I happen to think John Scalzi’s comments about it are dead on point, especially when he states that Cooks never would have addressed the issue had the internet gone viral about what happened.
In other news, Hell must be a bit colder this week. The New York Times has announced that it will begin listing a best sellers list for both fiction and non-fiction e-books after the first of the year. According to the article, the lists will be “compiled from weekly data from publishers, chain bookstores, independent booksellers and online retailers, among other sources.” One of those “other sources” is RoyaltyShare. It will be interesting to see just how complete the data will be when compiling these lists.
Going hand in hand with the news from the NYT is the AAP’s (Association of American Publishers) release of September’s sales figures. E-book sales increased 158.1% over September 2009. The only other areas showing an increase were downloaded audiobooks (73.7%), university press paperbacks (10.6%), higher education (2.2%), and professional books (0.7%).
“The Adult Hardcover category was down 40.4 percent in September with sales of $180.3 million, and sales for the year-to-date down by 8.1 percent. Adult Paperback sales decreased 15.8 percent for the month ($111.5 million) but increased by 1.5 percent for the year so far. Adult Mass Market sales decreased 23.6 percent for September with sales totaling $67.8 million; sales were down by 15.7 percent year to date.”
The year-to-date figures for e-book sales shows an increase of 188.4%. While that is still a small part of a traditional publisher’s overall sales, that figure is growing. The fact is this trend is only going to increase. E-book readers are becoming more affordable. Tablets such as the iPad also make reading e-books more attractive to readers than sitting at their desk reading off their PC or Mac. E-books are here to stay. The only real hurdle still left to clear — leaving aside the elephant in the room called DRM — is how long it will take for an industry standard format to be decided upon.
Until that happens, we’ll continue to offer our e-books in a variety of different formats and all will be DRM-free.
When we first started NRP, the idea was for The Naked Truth to be the voice of our editors and authors. The posts would dovetail to what was going up on our site, what our authors might be doing, etc. But there are times when events simply require comment. This is one of those times.
For those of you who were, like me, hiding under a rock or buried under deadlines yesterday, you might not have heard about the Cooks Source kerfluffle — I can’t say what I really think. We try to keep the blog at a PG rating.
I’m not going to go into all the facts. You can find them at the wronged author’s blog. Another LJ post that deals with what happened is here. John Scalzi sums it all up superbly with this title to his blog entry: The Stupidest Thing an Editor With Three Decades of Experience Has Said About the Web Today”.
There are two things the editor in question did that have set the internet ablaze. The first was to take an author’s work, “edit” it — and I use this term loosely — and then publish it without getting the author’s permission. Going hand in hand with this was the editor’s non-apology apology when the author contacted her. In this so-called apology she basically said the author should thank her for improving the article. That’s bad enough, especially since the only remuneration the author wanted was a $130 donation to a college.
Worse was this assertion by the editor: But honestly Monica, the web is considered “public domain” and you should be happy we just didn’t “lift” your whole article and put someone else’s name on it!
This is where my head exploded. It is also, to judge by the number of blog entries, media articles and op-ed pieces and posts on the magazine’s facebook page, where everyone else’s heads exploded as well. You simply do NOT “lift” work and publish it without permission. Even if permission is granted on the site you are taking the work from, it’s good form to email the author to confirm. It’s also smart to do so because they you have the permission in case there are questions later.
But it goes further than that. “The Internet IS NOT the public domain. There are both uncopyrighted and copyrighted materials available. Assume a work is copyrighted.” Copyright and Fair Use in the Classroom, on the Internet, and the World Wide Web. This is an excellent article about copyright and I highly recommend everyone take a look.
I’m not going to say this is an isolated incident. It’s not. But this is one of the worst I’ve seen in a long time. Not because this on-line magazine basically stole an author’s work. Not at all. It is one of the worst because of how the editor acted. This would have all been dealt with quickly and with little fall-out for the magazine and their advertisers if the editor had simply made a heartfelt apology and quickly donated the requested $130 to the college the author recommended. Instead, this one editor has put a bad taste in the mouths of so many people and her actions have splashed back onto the magazine’s advertisers who had nothing to do with what happened.
There are lessons to be learned from this debacle. The first, if you are posting someone else’s work, get their permission first. Be sure to credit them, something Cooks did. Don’t post without the author’s permission, unless you have contract in hand that gives you permission to post the article. Most of all, as an editor, don’t be a butthead!
But there are lessons for the author as well. The first is to set Google Alerts to your name/pen name and article title. The second is not to panic. Just because this particular editor acted this way, it doesn’t mean there is an epidemic of it. Be vigilant and keep writing. Most of all, don’t let this one incident prevent you from posting. Don’t let the bad guys win.