Dog-Eared and Dispatched: December 15, 2013Christmas is rapidly approaching, literary citizens, so it’s only fitting that we present you with a rundown of this week’s naughty and nice. In the wild world of book culture, independent booksellers face a shutout from Judge Jed Rakoff regarding their lawsuit against Amazon and the Big Five. Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reacts with surprising ferocity to the latest news regarding Apple’s antitrust monitoring. Next, we take a look at Norway’s plans for a fully digitized (and freely available) library catalog of all existing Norwegian books by 2030.
On Monday, December 9, Federal Judge Jed Rakoff dismissed the antitrust lawsuit put forth last February by three independent booksellers ( The Book House, Fiction Addiction, and Posman Books) against Amazon and the Big Five publishers. Within their case filing, these indie bookstores assert that Amazon is forming a monopoly with the Big Five by establishing contracts that require ebooks to use digital rights management (DRM) technologies. DRM software remains controversial within the book industry as a whole, since it allows certain company’s control of the use of digital content and devices after purchase, including the sharing and copying of ebooks. Viewing this policy as one “specifically designed to limit the use of digital content,” the bookstores contend that this agreement will cause “the vast majority of readers who wish to read an e-book published by the Big Six . . . [to] purchase the e-book from Amazon.” To review Rakoff’s full ruling, click here. [GalleyCat, Publishers Weekly, Scribd]
In response to Chief Justice Denise Cote’s latest ruling ( which awarded Apple’s external antitrust monitor, Michael Bromwich, even more clout), The Wall Street Journal had rather scathing remarks to share in one of their most recent editorials . Labeling Bromwich’s experience with antitrust law nonexistent and Cote’s most recent amendment “flatly unconstitutional,” The Wall Street Journal stated that “the Second Circuit where her ruling is on appeal should remove her from the case. Her condominium with Mr. Bromwich is offensive to the rule of law and a disgrace to the judiciary.” In an analysis of The Wall Street Journal‘s claims, Alex Shephard of Melville House linked the usually-so-conservative media source’s actions to its owner, Rupert Murdoch—the entrepreneurial tycoon who also happens to own HarperCollins, one of the Big Five publishers found guilty in the antitrust case. While acknowledging the obvious bias portrayed by The Wall Street Journal, Shephard stated that “Cote’s relationship with Bromwich is certainly troubling, and one hopes that it is investigated at greater length; questions about how a prosecutor with no antitrust experience got such a lucrative position abound.” [Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, MobyLives!]
The National Library of Norway has undertaken the ambitious plan to digitize every book written in the Norwegian language , with such existing publications dating back to the Middle Ages. While the process of digitizing Norway’s books was first implemented in 2006, this amped up version of the program was sparked by the Norwegian Legal Deposit Act , a law that “requires that all published content, in all media, be deposited with the National Library of Norway,” thus allowing the library to serve as a “national memory bank.” The National Library has said that they expect the entire process to take 20-30 years to complete, and the hope is that a digital version of all Norwegian books will be available by approximately 2030. As Melville House editor Sal Robinson noted, one of the most intriguing features of this initiative is Bokhylla.no (translation: “The Bookshelf”), a site that will allow anyone with a Norwegian IP address to access the library’s full selection of books, including those still under copyright. “Basically, this is like Google Books, except all parties agreed on it: years of lawsuits and legal wrangles were avoided, readers will have access to the full text of books, and the apocalypse has not descended upon the nation of fjords and lutefisk simply because someone will be able to read Sophie’s World for free in a couple of years,” Robinson said. This bloodless revolution came in large part as a result of the National Library’s partnership with Kopinor, a company that represents authors and publishers. Negotiating digital use contracts and fees, Kopiner is in the process of establishing a collection and distribution service plan between the authors/publishers and the National Library. Although the specifics of this payment procedure have yet to be revealed, Robinson compared this arrangement to the Public Lending Right system currently in place in the UK, Germany, and throughout Scandinavia. “The Public Lending Right . . . means that authors are entitled to compensation (usually a very small amount) every time their books are taken out of a library, to offset the potential lost sales. Instead of libraries buying a copy outright, and that being the last time the copyright holder sees a profit from it until the copy falls apart, the PLR ties profit to each use of the book,” Robinson stated, going on to add, “The PLR is not, and has never been very attractive to the US (for one thing, it directly contradicts the first sale doctrine), but it would actually come in handy right about now, when the whole concept of a library’s copy of a book and how long it might last has been thrown into question.” [The Atlantic, The National Library of Norway, MobyLives!]