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And there's the fact that you can do a search on "cookie recipe" and get all kinds of recipes, free for the downloading.

Yeah, but I can already do that on the web... that doesn't strengthen your arguement.


(re-edited post)


First, do I think this is a potential violation of copyright? Yes. I'm very curious about who gave Amazon permission to disseminate electronic copies of the books. The publishers? They claim they scan in actual books. Wow. What a huge effort.

That said, I think it'd take a whole lot effort for someone to copy an entire book. I quickly figured out how I'd do that, but sheesh, it's a huge effort for any sizeable novel. For fiction writers, I really don't think this feature poses much risk, and may in fact encourage sales. Besides, people already buy one copy and then painstakingly scan it and offer it for free on the Internet. Yes, this is illegal, but yes it happens, and yes it's probably still easier than doing the "amazon method" of copying. Also, amazon claims that if the publisher requests it, they will leave some pages unscanned so that someone cannot view the entire book through Amazon.

Now, I do think reference book authors really have more to complain about. If I can do a search on a research topic and get relevant pages for free, what need to I have to buy the book (or even go to the library or use an on-line research service). Then again, perhaps I'm using a few topics to do a check on the reference book to see how good it is before committing to a purchase.

Cookbook authors may have some to complain about too. Now recipies aren't copyright-able, per say. (Without going into the nitty details, recipes do not receive strong copyright protection.) As Unseelie points out, we can get lots of recipes free on the Internet, but the people who put them on Internet are choosing to give them away, and so this argument is actually irrelevant to this issue of e-rights. With a published cookbook, the author did not intend to give away the book, and of course, may not have permitted this kind of e-right. But like the reference issue, it could be a selling point. A buyer gets to check out the writing style and recipes before committing the buck -- exactly what I do when choosing to buy a cookbook in a brick-and-mortar store.

Which brings me back to wondering 1) is it a coypright violation?, and copyright aside, 2) will it hurt author sales? It might hurt brick and mortar store sales as those customers who really prefer to flip through a book can now do so electronically, but I'm not convinced that it hurts author sales. If there are copyright issues involved, however, by all means protect them and get new agreements worked out that define this kind of e-right. Authors (and music artists, too) get little enough for their works, and their rights shouldn't get tromped on.

Steven Harper Piziks

Whether it's a copyright violation or not seems to be up in the air. Baen Books, for example, specifically does =not= have e-rights to my books. I sold those to Embiid Books several years ago. Amazon is making available, one page at a time, my entire book, but it limits the access to a few pages at a time. I maintain this is a copyright violation---I didn't give Amazon the right to make my books available in this format. However, I doubt it's going to have a significant impact on my sales.

I think, however, that it's going to have a much bigger impact on reference books. Unseelie points out that you can get lots of free recipes on the net, and that's true--but as Lisa says, the authors of the various cookbooks for sale at Amazon didn't specifically make =their= recipes available; Amazon did that. Hell, if I want a really good recipe now (and the ones on the Internet are, like everything else, iffy), I can go to Amazon to find one for free, and I don't need to buy the book.

Reference books--same thing. If I'm writing an essay about the history of the English language, I can access chapters of several of Bill Bryson's excellent books on the subject. Sure, I can only get eight or ten pages at a time, but that's all I need for my little paper!

College professor tells me I have to buy a $200 textbook for a class? Ha! All I gotta do is go to Amazon and read it on-line, one chapter at a time.

The Authors Guild has already released their take on it. I'll post it in another comment--it's kinda long.

I also wonder about this: several stories about digital paper have hit the news lately. It's a paper-like material that can store text and change it as needed. (Sarah used a similar thing in FOOL'S WAR, as did Neal Stephenson in THE DIAMOND AGE--both available for electronic perusal now at Amazon.)

If this stuff becomes standard--and I can see it happening---Amazon will be well positioned to suddenly be the place you "read your book from." (Turn page, book downloads next page from Amazon and displays it -- looks, acts, feels just like a book.)

--Steven Harper Piziks

Steven Harper Piziks

This is the Author's Guild's position:

You might have read about Amazon.com's "Search Inside the Book"
program, launched yesterday, in which the entire texts of participating
publishers' titles are available on the Amazon.com website. Visitors
can locate titles containing search terms they choose, and then access
the two pages preceding and the two pages following the page containing
those terms. Amazon sets a limit that permits a user to see no more
than about 20% of a particular work. The company reports that
publishers consented to the placement of all 120,000+ titles in the

We've reviewed the contracts of major trade publishers and concluded
that these publishers do not have the right to participate in this
program without their authors' permission. We wrote to these
publishers after we learned about the program in July. Most argued
with our interpretation of their contract (no surprise there), but some
have said that they would remove a work from the program if the author

Whether your works should be in the program is hard to say. This
program will likely prove to be useful in promoting certain titles.
Midlist and backlist books that are receiving little attention, for
example, may benefit from additional exposure in searches. For other
titles, the program may erode sales. Most reference books would be at
clear risk in such a database. So would many (if not most) travel
books and cookbooks. Most fiction titles are not likely to be greatly

When we learned of the program, we thought that it would be impossible
to read more than 5 consecutive pages from a book in the program. It
turns out that it's quite simple (though a bit inconvenient) to look at
100 or more consecutive pages from a single lengthy book. We've even
printed out 108 consecutive pages from a bestselling book. It's not
something one would care to do frequently, but it can be done. So a
reader could choose to print out all the fish recipes from a cookbook
in the program. Or the section on Tuscany from a travel book. We
believe readers will do this, and the perplexing question is whether
the additional exposure for a title -- and the presumptive increase in
sales -- offsets sales lost from those who just use the Amazon system
to look up the section of a book when they need it.

Other books at especially high risk include those that sell to the
student (particularly college student) market as secondary reading. A
student could easily grab the relevant chapter or two out of a book
without paying for it. Students certainly have the time and most
likely the inclination to do so, and, with the help of some willing
colleagues, could print out the entire texts of books in the program.

We'll be sending you more information about the program shortly, and
we're going to be in further touch with the major publishers. If you'd
like a book removed from the program and your publisher isn't
cooperating, please let us know.

Copyright 2003, Authors Guild. This work may be forwarded and posted,
so long as it is not edited.

Catherine Shaffer

Is it copyright violation? Yes.
Will it hurt sales? Not for novels. But I agree with the statement above about reference books, travel books, and so forth.

I've known people to sit down and read an entire book IN a book store, so I think this is a less of a threat even than just sitting on the shelves for a novel.



It seems to me that if the publishers of the books Amazon is scanning don't own the e-rights to those books, there is a legal problem. This is assuming that Amazon claims the right to scan entire texts because the publisher of the text gave permission. Even if the publisher owns those rights there may be a problem depending on the wording of their contract with the author.

Amazon has scanned the entire text and it is available on the web for the investment of a little bit of time and trouble, therefore they've e-published it for free. When this is all hammered out, the deciding judge(s) may disagree with me, but in my opinion the protections in place are inadequate to change the definition of what they've done away from 'publishing'.

No, it probably won't affect sales of fiction much, but my guess would be that that's irrelevant to whether or not it's legal in those cases where Amazon didn't have the legal rights to e-publish the book in the first place.


Ok, the legal bit was my first reaction. As a user, I think what Amazon is doing is pretty nifty. As a programmer, I think there are a lot of things they could do to alleviate any potential problems before they become real problems. I hope they do, because of aforementioned niftiness of being able to 'browse' books I can't find in my local stores.


Yes, if you can get a hundred pages at a time, that's far beyond fair use. Even if you can only get five pages at a time, but those five pages are different for each user, so that the whole book is available, that's still not fair use. They will have to pay for this usage or cease and desist is my thinking.


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