Who Controls the Power When It Comes to eBooks?

Recently in the news I’ve seen a few articles related to eBook content providers pulling titles from distributors. This raises the questions about the risks and benefits of this distribution model.

As reported by Mashable, Kno is suing Cengage for breach of contract over the publisher’s decision to stop selling their titles on the platform. According to the article, Kno “infringed Cengage’s copyrights through the creation of a derivative work.” The feature they are referring to is the Journal Feature, which allows users to create a notebook by highlighting passages. These passages are viewable at a later time. Cengage had it first, Kno offered their version of the feature, Cengage deemed that infringement and yanked their content from Kno.

In separate news , Amazon is pulling 5,000 of its Kindle titles distributed by Chicago-based Independent Publisher’s Group over a dispute in terms. The article reports quite bluntly this no-nonsense quote from IPG president Mark Suchomel:”They [Amazon] decided they didn’t like the terms we [IPG] offered and we said, ‘we’re not going to change,’ and they removed them [the 5,000 Kindle titles].” That doesn’t sound like a happy relationship.

Both of these incidents in the past month highlight the vulnerability of this new model as well as the fact that we are still in a sort of lawless Wild West where publishers, sellers, platform makers, and even authors often overlap and they are all vying to be the new sheriff in town. Authors need publishers, publishers need distributors, and distributors need content. But publishers and distributors have strict sets of rules that govern their products and with eBooks, the ecosystem becomes increasingly fragile.

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