This article is written by Aniket Tiwari pursuing B.A.LL.B. from Law School, Banaras Hindu University. This article puts light on various problems that law book publishers face while publishing printed books.
In recent years, the world of digital/virtual books has expanded in a very dramatic way. Readers should view this expansion with both excitement and wariness. Excitement because digital books could revolutionize reading, making more books, more findable and more accessible to more people in more ways than ever before. Wariness because the various entities that will help make this digital book revolution possible may not always respect the rights and expectations that readers, authors, booksellers, and librarians have built up, and defended over generations of experience with physical books.
Problems with offline legal publications
There are various law book publishers around the world. Most of them are publishing books through offline mode, which is through a printed script. But in recent times, it was felt that there are certain problems with these printed books. We all know that printed books, especially law books are very heavy weighted and this makes it very difficult to carry them everywhere. Also, as these books are mostly read by lawyers and law students (they are the target audience) and most of them do not have sufficient time to read these heavy books by simply sitting at home. So, it is one of the major problems which lawyers and law students face while reading a printed book. Suppose, a lawyer has free time and his hearing is about to start in ten minutes. In these ten minutes, he/ she can not go back to his/ her chamber to read a law book. In such an incident, to prevent the wastage of the lawyer’s time, availability of handy and virtual legal matters is the need of the hour. We will now discuss the major problems that arise due to the publication of hard copies of law books.
Imagine Harry Potter without The Deathly Hallows, Game of Thrones without A Dream of Spring. What will happen if someone has already told you about the result of the India-Pakistan cricket match? What if our favorite movie was canceled before it could arrive at its climax. It can happen in the publication of books. Suppose an author, who is about to finish a book, gets to know that his book is already published and circulated in the market. In such a situation, the author may also cancel the publication of his book. Piracy of printed books is very common nowadays and the law book publishers are also suffering because of it. Book piracy is difficult to measure. It is the ratio between the total illegal sale and a truly lost sale.
But it is important for us to first discuss how this piracy of printed books takes place. How often we see that our batchmate (sometimes we also do it) ask for the book from us or from seniors or from the library and take that book to get a xerox copy. This is an example of the piracy of books. Nowadays, piracy of printed law books has become common. Books are pirated for the following reasons:
- Books related to the legal field are not easily available.
- Cost of law books is usually much higher than the normal books.
- Usually, printed books are very large and bulky so the reader prefers to have xerox copies of a particular portion of such books.
The problems with printed law books can be solved with the use of ebooks. The piracy of these books can be reduced by using ebooks. There is the use of Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology that prevents piracy of ebooks. DRM is a systematic approach to copyright protection for digital media. It is a lock on a file that ensures that the person who bought the content can only use it.
One may see Digital Rights Management in his/ her LexisNexis eBook, located in front of his/ her eBook. Digital Rights Management places the purchaser’s account name and email ID in the eBook. This ensures that the copyright laws of the author and publisher are respected. It ensures that eBooks bought from Amazon can only be read in your Kindle App. It also puts a restriction on the sharing of eBooks with others. It puts a restriction on the number of devices one can download the same eBook at a time.
Suppose, a lawyer or a law student publishes a commentary on the arbitration law and the legislature comes up with certain amendments in the arbitration law just after the publication of these books. In such cases, these printed books are no longer needed or in other words, these books become waste so it will lead to great material loss. Therefore, the publisher of the book suffers a major financial loss.
This problem of material waste increases as there is a significant number of printed books that are damaged in the transportation process. There are at least 20 per every 1000 books that are damaged in the transportation process. The reason for this may be different like some books are damaged due to improper packaging of these books, due to the negligence of the workers involved in the transportation of these books, etc.
This material waste is effectively reduced by the use of eBooks. There is no damage to eBooks in the transportation process (because it does not have any transportation process). Also, there is no material waste in the case of eBooks as the content in these books can be updated at any time at the will of the publisher or author.
Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ)
Minimum Order Quantity is a term used for a minimum amount that can be ordered from a supplier. This is a major problem that every new publisher faces. In the printing of books also there is a minimum quantity fixed by the printing press. This minimum number varies from press to press. However, these numbers fixed for publishing any book are normally higher for a new writer as they do not have such a hefty sum of money in the beginning. We all know that in the legal industry, the laws about anything are not fixed and they are changing to fulfill the demands of society. So, any publisher would not want to publish a large number of these books as nothing is certain in the legal world. But the Minimum Order Quantity binds them to publish a large number of books that a publisher may not want to do at that time.
The problem of MOQ is solved through eBooks. So, here there is no such restriction on the publisher to publish any particular minimum number of books. Actually, it also provides a larger audience to the publisher. Here in publishing eBooks, there is very little possibility of financial loss.
In the present scenario, everyone can understand the importance of technology. And the range of these techniques has also increased in recent times. The same concept applies to the widespread use of eBooks. We all know that the legal language is different from any other language and how often the reader has to refer to the dictionary to understand the meaning of certain legal terms (like legal maxims, Latin terms, other complicated words). The eBooks provide the option of Built-In Dictionaries to solve such problems of the readers.
Another issue with the printed law books is related to space consumed by such books. We all know that lawyers, judges, and law students are avid readers and they tend to collect a lot of books, and these books take up too much space and make home/ chambers feel cluttered. However, a large collection of eBooks would not take any physical space. It is easier to manage a digital library than bookshelves filled with thousands of books.
Rights conferred to publisher publishing ebooks
There are various eBook publishing companies like Amazon, iBooks, Smashwords, Kobo, etc. through which one can publish his/ her eBooks. eBooks are available in multiple formats like MOBI, ePUB, KF8 and many more. In the publishing industry, the owner of the copyright may be the publishing company by an agreement between the author and publisher.
eBooks are under the ambit of laws governing intellectual property. It includes the Indian Copyright Act and Information Technology Act. The owner and producer of eBooks own the copyright to their work. Section 14 of the Indian Copyright Act, 1957 talks about the term “copyright”. Copyright is basically the legal right to publish, print, film or record any literary, dramatic and musical material. Hence eBooks come under this category.
The publisher is also provided with rights to protect the copyright of digital content through the use of Digital Rights Management (DRM). Section 65A and Section 65B of the Indian Copyright (Amendment) Act, 2012 says that anyone who tries to bypass technological protection of copyrighted material (DRM) can be punished with two-year imprisonment along with the fine. Thus Digital Rights Management has a legal basis under Indian laws.
Royalty is the payment made to the owner for the use of its property. The conditions on which the royalties depend upon are license agreements between the parties. Different publishing houses have different rates and it depends on a variety of factors. The same is applied in the case of eBooks where different publishing houses like LexisNexis, EBC, etc give a certain amount of money to the author of the books for their work. It is said that the royalty given for printed books is much higher than the eBooks. However, it varies according to the circumstances. It depends on the initial cost of the eBook, the taxation policy of the country, any special contract signed.
Possible Challenges in publishing ebooks
There are certain challenges which one may face while publishing the eBook. Here we will discuss those challenges.
- Copyright Challenges: The most valuable part of most eBook publishers are the copyright contents of such books. For the publishers, the following are the main copyright issues.
- Author Grants- It is the first step in the process of publishing any book. This step includes obtaining rights from authors.
- Copyright Procedures- This is the second step in publishing an eBook. It is the duty of the publisher to protect the copyright which they obtain from the author.
- Copyright Licenses- The next measure is to be precise and cautious in granting a license to the third person. For example, the publisher must be very careful in granting rights to any other eBooks publishing sites like Kindle, Google, Smashwords, etc.
- Protection Against Infringement- This is the fourth and one of the most important steps in protecting the copyright. It includes the preventive measures one should take for protection against infringement of any right.
2. Contract Challenges: The second set of challenges arises from the field of contracts and licensing law.
- Publishing Contract: The publisher’s contract with the author should be clear and reasonable.
- Licensing Agreements: Publishers (his/her lawyer) need to develop precise and well-tailored contracts that clearly define the rights granted and rights that are not granted.
3. Defamation, Privacy and Publicity Issues: These are another set of problems that comes in front of a publisher. The publisher can be sued for publishing a false and defamatory statement about someone although he/she is not the author of the book. He/ she can also be sued for the violation of public rights.
The process of publishing a law book online is a new idea and fortunately, many leading law book publishers have started to publish eBooks. These are easy to carry as they do not have any actual weight. But in our country, many people do not have knowledge about eBooks. Also, even though many courts in India have become paperless, there are many lawyers who are not allowed to put any reference online through these eBooks.
We should understand that the future of reading is in eBooks. Many publishers are not using major eBook sites like Kindle, Google Books, Kobo, Smashwords, etc. They should use these eBook reading platforms so that the range of audience increases.
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