Of course, someone will probably manage to crack it if they haven’t already.

Another article:

A couple of interesting comments in it:

“The somewhat restrictive agreement I cited in a post last week, which specified maximum e-book pricing relative to print and offered a relatively low share of revenue, applies only to smaller, ‘non-agency’ publishers.”


“Other promised features didn’t make the cut for the launch. The company held up support for copy and paste and printing, for example, after too many publishers balked. Highlighting and annotation features won’t happen until later.”

But then, here:

“Books sold by most of the large U.S. publishers - Penguin, HarperCollins, Hachette Book Group, Macmillan, Simon and Schuster - fall under the so-called “agency model,” in which the publisher sets the list price, takes roughly 70 percent of the sales revenue, and the retailer - in this case, Google - takes the remaining 30 percent.

For non-agency books, Google will use an algorithm to choose a price based on market data, not including competitors’ prices, Google says. Google then keeps the proceeds from that sale, minus approximately 52 percent of the publisher’s original list price.

[That is, small publishers are apparently not allowed to set their own prices.]

Google representatives said the proportion of the revenue split can vary somewhat depending on the specifics of deals with individual publishers.” [but this is only the large publishers]

In other words, the large publishers may get decent revenues, but the self-publishers and micropresses will likely just be providing almost free content for Google, considering Google gets to set their book prices by unexplained “algorithms.” I expect their prices for books on obscure subjects such as mine wouldn’t even meet my per-copy production costs.

I am not a lawyer, but I think there are some major problems with the following:

and especially:

To me, this says you can RECOMMEND a book price to Google, but Google or a retailer will SET THE PRICE and pay you a percentage on the price THEY SET. In other words, if Google wants free or virtually free e-books to sell ads next to (from which Google gets ALL the ad revenues), or just to lure people to their book site with all those freebies, they can do it with YOUR books (if you sign this agreement).


“3.5 Promotional Programs. You and Google and you and Authorized Resellers may agree to offer Google Editions as part of promotional programs at a discounted price. In this case, the Standard Revenue Split and the Reseller Revenue Split will be based on the discounted price.”

In other words, if those independent bookstores competing with Amazon who sign up to be Google Resellers want free or virtually free e-books that Amazon does not sell or sells at a higher price, to lure buyers to THEIR stores or to sell larger publishers’ books, Google can oblige them by making YOUR book into a loss leader in ways that will not benefit you.


“4.6 Refunds. Google reserves the right to grant refunds of Google Editions purchases in its sole and absolute discretion.”

It seems that returns are not going away just because these are e-books.

James, as a lawyer, what do you think of this agreement?

Fran Lavolta Press

What percentage of books in a typical bookstore are there on a ‘sale or return’ basis. How much is based on a wholesale-purchase, retail-resale model?

My commercial agent has a degree of freedom to adjust prices (without asking me) when bargaining about with clients for my work,but there are limits - he after all dos not own the pictures being sold.

Frances, that is not how I read the terms. On my reading, if the copyright owner sets a Specified Price, then the List Price is defined to be the Specified Price. Whatever price Google actually sells the book at, it will pay a Revenue Split calculated based on the List Price — thus the price set by the copyright owner. The same goes for bundles. Although 3.2 of the terms uses the phrase “recommend,” the price recommended is defined to be the Bundled Price, and payments to the copyright owner are calculated based on the Bundled Price, regardless of what price the books are actually sold at. Finally, in 3.5, the key language is “You and Google and you and Authorized Resellers may agree,” which means that “you” (the copyright owner) must agree before promotional discounts will be offered.


In the US, bookstores usually get a 40% discount from the list price on most orders from most publishers. The list price is always set by the publisher. The bookstore can charge consumers whatever the bookstores pleases, even if it is much more, or much less, than the list price. However, the bookstore still pays the publisher 60% of the list price. Therefore, if the bookstore wants to set a lower price on the book when selling to consumers, the store is free do so, BUT the publisher is not paid any less. On the other hand, if the bookstore wants to raise the price considerably when selling to consumers, the publisher does not get any extra profit from it.

Most print books are sold to bookstores on a returnable basis. The publisher sets terms (in writing) for what is allowable, including how long the bookstore can keep the books before returning them, whether the bookstore can return books after they have gone out of print, what condition the books must be in, who pays shipping for returns, etc. The publisher reserves the right to reject any returns sent that do not meet the specified conditions, and does not give credit for these returns. Many publishers feel the returns system is often abused anyway.

What percentage of books are returned depends on the book and the publisher. We get few returns. On the other hand, at least 10% is considered pretty normal for large publishers.

Many publishers would like to make e-books nonreturnable on the principle of (a) if consumers pay less they should get less and (b) with a print book, if it has been read either inside the bookstore or outside it, it is usually beat up enough that it no longer looks like a new book and therefore does not meet conditions for return. Meaning, if the bookstore lets customers beat up print books the bookstore, not the publisher, pays for them. Also, again, the returns system is already abused, with some stores returning books only to order copies of the exact same title, to keep them available and cycling through the system without paying for them for a much longer period.

Note that a book’s price is set not only on its production costs, but on how many copies the publisher expects to sell and on the prices of competitive books. There is also an element of sales of certain editions subsidizing each other. If e-books ever become the dominant form of publication, they cannot be subsidized by sales of print books, which is how many publishers are pricing them now.

This is different from your situation in selling unique works of art—I assume you are not relying on nearly as much on the quantity of sales. It is also very different from Google setting prices according to algorithms that are not only unrevealed to the publisher, they have absolutely no relation to book’s production costs, the marketplace value as determined by the prices of competitive books, the publisher’s expert estimates of sales volume, or the publisher’s intent to amortize costs over several editions.

Google setting prices according to algorithms that are not only unrevealed to the publisher, they have absolutely no relation to book’s production costs, the marketplace value as determined by the prices of competitive books, the publisher’s expert estimates of sales volume, or the publisher’s intent to amortize costs over several editions.

James is this the ‘contract?

John, Frances is correct. The algorithms will be secret, as Google believes they give it a competitive advantage. The production costs will be ignored (which is economically rational given that the marginal cost of each sale will be extremely low). Paying attention tot he prices of competitive books may be forbidden by antitrust law. And the publishers’ intentions are ignored when Google picks a price. Keep in mind, however, that the publisher is free to set a different price if it thinks it can do better than Google can, has a longer-term plan in mind, etc.


Well, it’s in at least one of the articles about the Google e-books store. I believe it’s how Google planned to price the so-called orphan works according to the Settlement.


Thanks. But, I’m not seeing anything so far about whether Google will sell advertising in connection with the books and whether the small-press publisher gets any of those revenues. I’m also disturbed by the statement that Google reserves the right to change the agreement at any time—which I am sure they will.

Frankly, no matter what terms were offered, I still would never sign a contract with a business that has behaved in such a predatory manner.


Paying attention tot he prices of competitive books may be forbidden by antitrust law

Wouldn’t this be a matter of intention? If the intention was to undercut competitors “prices” would that be an anti-trust issue?

And the publishers’ intentions are ignored when Google picks a price. Keep in mind, however, that the publisher is free to set a different price

Seems contradictory.

Frances, advertising would, I believe, be addressed in the Partner Agreement to which the Google Editions Addendum is, well, an addendum. (I haven’t seen a copy, and I believe the terms vary from particular Partner Agreement to Partner Agreement.)

John, it’s not contradictory. The publisher may choose to pick a price, or to let Google pick one. Publisher’s choice.


If there is a standard agreement; How binding , for how long ,is the agreement?

The publisher may choose to pick a price, or to let Google pick one. Publisher’s choice.

If a publisher chose to make the e-copies uncompetitive- effectively discount hard copies.

Would/could Google occasionally choose to say no deal?


The Google eBooks web experience, therefore, is not that of a file download — it is an experience that is optimized for reading in the browser.
And therefore it will be quite possible, if not relatively trivial, to produce a modified browser which is designed to automatically traverse through the ebook, just like a human, while saving the images it displays on the screen into a file. The file, of course, will have to be OCRed if you want the ebook as text, but that’s usually very, very easy for images which are as perfect as screenshots (as opposed to scans).

Thanks for the links which show how Google is representing its DRM to the publishers, however. I don’t really blame Google for not informing the publishers about the above problem, considering that practically all ebook DRM is susceptible to extracting the ebook as an image, unless the only readers for the ebook run on closed systems like the Kindle or the iPhone/iPad.

E-publishing a book is handing out the printing plates ; If the legit price is less than the time and trouble of ‘stealing’ a copy— why bother? If I have paid my own money for something, I am less likely to give it away to people who want it for free, its ’ human nature’ to resent freeloaders.

With some exceptions - e.g situations of ‘embargo breaking’; be the first to read the latest Harry Potter before its released, commercially pirating books is clearly a race to the bottom. Very soon there would be nothing worth nicking.


Which is why I’m never going to publish e-books, through Google or in any other way. I can at least make my work harder to pirate by forcing any wannabee pirates to scan it.

The google deal compared with the ipad Apple deal, Is it competitive?

Frances most of the people I know would not even know where to begin to find the ‘cache’ . Many use the computers at work to fart around on the web buying things they do not need on ebay and gossiping on social networks about other peoples sex lives and so on . They depend on IT support for just about every thing= unlikely pirates.

As for people who could do the ‘pirating’ on an industrial scale, what would be in it for them, philanthropy is not a commercial motive.

John Walker: If there is a standard agreement; How binding , for how long ,is the agreement?

See the “Term” clause in the Google Editions Addencum:

The Term of this Addendum shall commence on the Addendum Effective Date and continue for the Term set forth in the Agreement; provided that either party may terminate this Addendum with thirty (30) days written notice to the other party and the Agreement will otherwise continue in full force and effect unless the terminating party in its written notice also elects to terminate the Agreement.

This should answer your second question, as well.


I’m not a programmer, and it took me five unassisted minutes to find my caches.

In Firefox, look under “History” on the menu bar at the top of the screen.

In Explorer, click on Favorites, which brings up three little tabs, one of which is for “History.”

There are other browsers, which I have not used, but I’d say rooting around for a “History” menu item would probably find their caches.


It took me a tad longer than 5 minutes, and it is just a list of file addresses = not quite a full ready to wear book, as long as the price is reasonable I have better things to do.


Thank you.


Unfortunately, I imagine someone will come up with an inexpensive program to string the files together.

I imagine you did not mean it this way, but one thing you said bothers me. I often hear pirates say the reason they pirate is they do not want to pay the book price charged, but would pay a “reasonable” price. Publishers usually do set reasonable prices.

As I’ve said, a list price is based on the costs of producing the book, the number of copies the publisher expects to sell, what proportion they expect to sell to wholesalers (at a 55% or so discount), what proportion to retailers (at a 40% or so discount), and what proportion (if any) to consumers (often at no discount). Note that the rest is not pure profit, as author royalties, marketing, and considerable overhead have to come out of it.

Prices of competitive books are taken into account, but usually a publisher wants to charge less rather than more to have that advantage over competitors. In fact, the rule of thumb is that if you crunch all the numbers and cannot get the list price below that of competitive books, you either need a really marvelous book, or more commonly, need to either reduce the price (for example by shortening it), or not publish it at all.

What I am getting at is, a “reasonable price” is not just what you happen to feel like paying.

It is also highly unethical to steal something because you do not want to pay the price charged for it. The ethical course (and legal course) is to shop elsewhere for a lower legal price, wait for a sale, or

Do without.

You are not entitled to get goods you want at prices you want to pay, or even than you can afford. No one is obligated to produce goods you want at prices you set. No industry can afford to operate at no profit and no one can afford to work for you for no pay, nor have they any incentive to do so.


You are a lawyer and I am not, but I still think you are wrong about the Google ebook agreement for small publishers. As far as I can see, Google does not anywhere guarantee they will actually sell the books at the price the small publisher “recommends.” My understanding has long been that as a publisher, I cannot legally dictate the prices charged by the wholesalers or the retailers I sell to. By the terms of this agreement, Google is both a wholesaler and a retailer. It might not matter to me what price Google charged in its position as either, if this were the normal industry arrangement where the discount is off my fixed cover price/list price (even though this is is typically called the “suggested list price”) and Google agreed to give me a fixed percentage of that regardless of the price Google charged its customers.

But as far as I can tell—and I have looked at this contract again—I’d be paid a percentage of the price Google charges at their discretion. Google is not even saying they will always charge the same price, or whether they will charge retailers different prices than consumers, or whether they will change the price at will according to their algorithms or on some other basis.

I looked at the old partner agreement, which does not say anything about publishers or authors getting any percentage of Google’s ad revenues. As the new agreement also does not, I assume Google gets 100% of those revenues.

john walker:

As for people who could do the ‘pirating’ on an industrial scale, what would be in it for them, philanthropy is not a commercial motive.
You should read Professor Grimmelmann’s paper on “The Ethical Visions of Copyright Law”, and also see this interview with an economist who has “discovered” that:
Piracy is so difficult to battle because file-sharers are motivated by altruism and not financial gain
Warning: some of the ideas this economist proposes in the interview are likely to give you heartburn, john: for example, he thinks it might be a good idea that public funds be used to finance “the creative industries”. Seems kind of silly to me when the movie studios largely manage to recoup their investment with sufficient profit even when only looking at box office income. Up to now, every prophet of doom to the “creative industries” (usually spokesmen for those industries themselves) has come up looking stupid.

I do find it amusing that he, like you, also talked about King Canute, and since he explained the reference, I (oh, boorish me!) finally understand your allusion to him.

From a pragmatic view point, it is impossible to have a policeman standing next to every computer terminal in the whole world. If the cost/effort of purchasing something greatly exceeds the cost/effort/skills of ‘do it yourself’ , the seller has a problem.

Piracy is so difficult to battle because file-sharers are motivated by altruism and not financial gain.

A friend dos a lot of Business in Guang Zhou , the hundreds of hawkers offering complete sets of the Sopranos are not there for altruism. Piracy in the west is small beer, In china it is every where and it is definitely not altruistic.

he thinks it might be a good idea that public funds be used to finance “the creative industries”.

Not suprised the founding fathers of Australia’s Government funded/directed arts sector were two economists. They embodied father knows best. The planned ‘culture’ they they helped create is, like all planned cities, circular , tedious, and bossy in a mediocre Canberra sort of way.


It’s not generous to give away someone else’s property, so I don’t call this altruism.

What I see is:

  • Social barter. People steal the work of those outside the in-group, and give it to those within their in-group, to be praised by that in-group.

  • Economic barter. The trading of pirated works, one-for-one, or with the expectation that “I’ll give you one now and you’ll probably give me one later,” or uploading to a large file-sharing site which is a center of the latter expectation, only on a large-group scale.

  • Reinforcement of personal feelings of cleverness about how much money was saved and/or how the “greedy” publisher and author were outwitted.

  • A desire to destroy the economic foundation of (in this instance) book creation under the assumption, that somehow, once the foundation is destroyed everyone will be willing and able to do massive amounts of professional work for free.

It is entirely possible for a creative industry to be seriously harmed. I spent many years as a dancer, and dance is one of those industries. Sure, people still dance and they still watch dance performances. But not on anywhere near the scale they did when it was impossible to attend most parties without a reasonable amount of social dance skill, and when performance dance was also more popular. The two relied on each other economically: Performance dancers taught social dancers how to dance and how to appreciate performances. Sure, you can now cite some local ballroom dance studio that charges people up the wazoo for courses. There are also some arts grants for dance. (Although in the current economy, there are few grants for much of anything. My state and federal governments are in such bad shape I wouldn’t sell either of them five books on credit.) But the fact is, as a whole dance was once economically vital and it is now pretty dead. Very, very few people actually earn a viable living from it, even very well-known and skilled dancers. Most professional dancers are supported by other jobs or by spouses.

Now, again, the typical pirate would say, “Oh but people dance anyway, right? So it proves we don’t have to pay dancers.” Or writers, or whatever. But, people really don’t have much incentive to starve in a garret so you can earn your nice, high, secure salary and get all your books free. This is not altrusim, it’s exploitation.

And, people would create a lot more books if they actually got paid. One of my favorite writers, and a well-known one, and one with a lot more books to write, died a few months ago (when she was in her mid-50s) because, guess what? With over a dozen books in print, and some awards won, and major publishers for most of her books, she couldn’t afford health insurance and therefore, did not get cancer treatment.

And publishers are businesses. They expend a great deal of money creating books—editing, designing, illustrating, marketing, translating, and many other tasks. There are excellent reasons for most writers to use other publishers. I’ve self-published for 19 years and it’s still very hard. And I’m in a really good position to do it. I had 10 years of industry experience before I started my own business, plus a “certificate” in a post-BA program at UC Berkeley. (I went to night school there for several years.) I’m on self-publishing lists and constantly listening to yet more newbies asking, “How do I get an ISBN?” and thinking, “You poor thing, you have so far to go before you can even start.” And it’s not any cheaper than publishing through a large publisher. Instead of your publisher hiring all those editors, and designers, etc., you get to pay for it all yourself. Up front. Or learn to do it all yourself, which is not economic for one book, considering the time, hardware, and software involved. Most self-publishers I encounter on the lists have commercial intent. If they plan to sell the book rather than give it to a handful of relatives, they do their best to make money and are always wanting to know more about how to make money.

And on top of that, the large publishers always have more clout. Their books are reviewed far more often, they are carried by bookstores far more often, they are bought by libraries far more often, they win awards far more often. Large publishers can afford to payers even get free cataloging data from the Library of Co for much more and expensive advertising. Large publishngress (which is pretty much mandatory to put on the copyright page), but the LOC explicitly refuses it to self-publishers (who have to hire an independent cataloger).

Google is not going to “level the playing field.” Micropublishers have been saying that about Amazon for years, but it hasn’t happened. All Amazon has done for me is put most of my independent-bookstores customers out of business. Furthermore, if Google is giving large publishers 70% of the e-book profits and self-publishers, and a maximum of 52% to small publishers, that hardly speaks to any intent to “level the playing field.”

In sum, if the book industry is seriously damaged by piracy do not count on self-publishers to altruistically fill the gap by spending large amounts of money just to give their much-better-paid readers endless freebies.


By the way, if people who pirate books actually like books and reading, and are doing it for altruistic reasons:

Could you explain to me why they are always crowing about how easy it is to steal electronic files, calling publishers and authors “greedy,” and happily predicting the downfall of bookstores?


I’m calling thread drift.

Ron, John, and Frances: I can see how you got there by small steps in responding to each other. But if you have anything further to say on piracy, ethics, or altruism, take it to the open thread.

Its funny but not that surprising that an academic economist could be so economically irrational about using taxes/transaction levies to pay for ‘creative’ innovation. Successful creativity is rare, the mediocre is median , redistributive systems always disappear into a circular swamp of management and distribution costs and they always end in academic authority ;the, “conscientious servant of the art of boredom” doling out awards and recognition to the suitably qualified .

To give a example of how these things pan out; one of Australia’s publicly funded visual Arts programs is called the VACS strategy. It pays about 2 million per year to artists , the annual ‘cost’ of the organizational structure ‘needed ’ to run the program is about 13+ million. This cost/benefit ratio is fairly typical of the sector, at its most effective. Because phantom employees are so common/unremarked upon in the sector, any estimate of management costs is provably an underestimate , a cost/benefit ratio of roughly 7 to 1 is about as good as efficiency gets in the funded sector

Redistributive schemes are make work schemes for the dominated of the dominant. They are not a substitute for a real industry and a real market. ( Although a few economists have had a happy forty years being well paid to produce reports/studies that recommend more funding for conferences on how to facilitate ‘creativity’ and the pressing need for more funding for more research into the need for more research.)

Ps The clause in the Australian art resale royalty Act that really matters is not clause 23( it grants the artist a right to say no) rather it is clause 22 - clause 22 requires the collection society to individually advertise each and every affected resale , in order to seek the artists permission. It was compulsory membership that was really the grail they hungered for , 22 is a nice Number.

Years ago a senior UK government bureaucrat who was well versed in the peculiar nature of the mindset created by redistributive funding of ‘creativity’ ; Somewhat wearily stated , “my principle job is to say no.”

James Sorry!

Whatever the merits/faults of the Google eBookstore contract, it is none the less an attempt to create a economic emodel based on individual purchases of individual titles and that is a good thing.

Having a file/copy that you are happy to give away is only half of the picture , other people have to find you. Google is the principle way of finding things on the web- I doubt that they would make the finding of free copies of Google Ebooks , that easy.


The traditional model of bookselling already has pricing based on consumer demand. If the price is too high, they don’t buy. This is true of most manufactured items. But it is also true that if the manufacturer cannot make a profit, they quit producing the item. Consumers are not only not entitled to everything at a cheap or free price, it is impossible to supply it to them.

I think pirates confuse the praise they get from their peer group for uploading a pirated file and the feeling this makes the upload worth their trouble of copying the file, with the motivations of an author. Having people gush over your book does not make the investment of years of hard labor (some of which is distasteful at times), and investing a great deal of money, worthwhile. There has to be a cash reward.

Book listings have appeared in the main Google search engine ever since there was a Google search engine. And on Yahoo and all the other search engines as well. I find listings for my books all over the net—my website, Amazon, other online bookstores, where people mentioned them in blogs, etc. That does not involve my selling any books through Google, nor posting any free content via Google or anywhere else. Anyone who just wants their book “found” does not need the Google contract. As well as the main search engine, Google is listing my books in their new “Google Books,” even though they have not posted scans. (Yet—I’ll have to keep an eye on the site.) They have uploaded bibliographic data from one of the industry sources that has it and they have sold ads to meta-book-search engines outside Google, such as Alibris.

But, most marketing does not work passively. I have much better results laboriously getting addresses off websites of potential readers and contacting them directly, than waiting for them to run across my book on the Google search engine or anywhere else. So I really question whether selling books through Google would get me anywhere I’ve not already gotten selling them in umpteen other places.


I think you and others have been confused by the Google hype that they are doing something new. They’re not. They’re latecomers. The only thing they did that was different was to scan millions of copyrighted books without permission and get sued for it. And the Google e-book store agreements are outside the suit. There is no reason (other than ignorance) for even a small publisher to sign the Google agreement if they can get better terms off Amazon Kindle and other platforms.

And a few interesting details here that I have not seen before:

Now that the distinction between “Google Books” and “Google ebooks” is blurring I wonder if there will be a reassessment of the placement of Google’s terminals in public libraries as stipulated in the Settlement Agreement? (Like giving kids the keys to the candy store.) I have seen nothing in the press in this regards. The University of Wisconsin has a “More Information At Google Book Search” link on all their online catalogue cards and as well have a “Google Preview” tab on the cards in their new catalogue. Nothing like commercializing a library.

Douglas Fevens, Halifax, Nova Scotia— The University of Wisconsin, Google, & Me

Here’s a blog on a writer’s experience regarding what they thought the contract meant versus what it meant:


as well have a “Google Preview” tab on the cards in their new catalogue. Nothing like commercializing a library. (comment)

The Google tab has been removed from that particular card.

Douglas Fevens, Halifax, Nova Scotia— The University of Wisconsin, Google, & Me

Google Books linking problem continues to cost ebook authors money— Steven Lewis

I’ve been forced to do as a commentator on the original post suggested and dump the customised “buy” link to my own website. Instead I’m trying a link to Kindle Automation for the Mac.

I’ve taken the decision because I can see from the Google Books reports that some days I’m getting a 25% click-through rate (CTR) to the buy links with my book and I know from Google Analytics that none are coming through to my website, which means my potential customers are trying to find the books through Google Books’ broken links.