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Posts Tagged ‘Books’

Does Copyright Make Books Disappear?

Copyright law has two main economic justifications. One is familiar—the idea that copyright promotes the production of creative work by ensuring that creators, and not copyists, gain the value of their creations. Yet production is not enough, since works also need to be distributed over time. And here lays the second main justification: copyright’s power does not end at the moment of creation, but instead provides a continuing incentive for creators (or their financial backers) to distribute and market works. Absent that incentive, creative works will not be readily available to the public.

In a fascinating new paper (available on SSRN) by Paul Heald analyzes this second claim. Here is a snippet from the introduction. We’ve bolded the most striking part of the study:

Influential copyright lobbyists presently circle the globe advocating ever longer terms of copyright protection based on this under-exploitation hypothesis–that bad things happen when a copyright expires, the work loses its owner, and it falls into the public domain. By analyzing present distribution patterns of books and music, this article tests the assumption that works will be under-exploited unless they are owned and therefore questions the validity of arguments in favor of copyright term extension… 

[Our research] collects data from a random selection of new editions for sale on (“Amazon”) and music found on new movie DVD’s for sale on Amazon. By examining what is for sale “on the shelf,” the analysis of this data reveals a striking finding that directly contradicts the under-exploitation theory of copyright: Copyright correlates significantly with the disappearance of works rather than with their availability. Shortly after works are created and proprietized, they tend to disappear from public view only to reappear in significantly increased numbers when they fall into the public domain and lose their owners. For example, more than twice as many new books originally published in the 1890’s are for sale by Amazon than books from the 1950’s, despite the fact that many fewer books were published in the 1890’s.

America's Most Well-Read Cities

Amazon has just released its third annual list of the Most Well-Read Cities of America — a ranking based on per-capita “sales data of all book, magazine and newspaper sales in both print and Kindle format.”  Here are the top 5:

1. Alexandria, Va.

2. Knoxville, Tenn.

3. Miami, Fla.

A Brave New World for Copyright and the First Sale Doctrine

Arbitrage is defined as taking advantage of price differences between two markets. A few years ago Supap Kirtsaeng, a math major at Cornell, found that his textbooks could be purchased more cheaply in his native Thailand than in Ithaca, so he asked friends to buy the books there and ship them to him. He started selling them on eBay and soon cleared almost $40,000. Eventually a major textbook publisher, John Wiley & Sons, got wind of Kirtsaeng’s business and filed a copyright lawsuit.

That the suit involved copyright may seem odd, since Kirtsaeng wasn’t copying anything. He was just re-selling items that he’d already paid for — a time-honored way to make money in almost any economy.

But because the items were books, some special rules applied. The textbooks were foreign editions (i.e., printed abroad), and Wiley had inserted the following language into the title pages: “This book is authorized for sale in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East only and may be not exported out of these territories. Ex­portation from or importation of this book to another region without the Publisher’s authorization is illegal and is a violation of the Publisher’s rights.” Wiley argued that by importing the books Kirtsaeng was violating the copyright owner’s exclusive right under the U.S. Copyright Act to authorize distribution. 

What the Google Books Battle Really Means

The next battle in the Google Books dispute comes in a week, when lawyers on both sides meet to consider their next move after a federal judge rejected a settlement proposal. Should Congress step in?

A Very Interesting Paragraph From …

… today’s Wall Street Journal:
Once upon a time, Americans got dogs for their sheep. Now they get sheep for their dogs. “I never dreamed it would go this far,” says Ms. Foster, 56 years old.

A Very Interesting Paragraph From …

… Economic Lives: How Culture Shapes the Economy, by Viviana A. Zelizer, an economic sociologist at Princeton: Suppose for a moment that this is the year 2096. Let’s take a look at American families: although by now money often takes postelectronic forms unfamiliar to the twentieth century, in the “traditional” home, “housewives” and “househusbands” receive monthly stipulated sums of money as salaries from their wage-earning spouses.

Is Your University Complying With the New Textbook Law?

University students are returning to campuses throughout the country. It is a migration that raises my spirits – seeing the energetic, eager faces tackling another course in contracts or intellectual property. But this year something is different. For the first time, a federal law has taken effect which requires “institution of higher education receiving Federal financial assistance” to provide students with information on textbook pricing.

The Self-Help Psychologist Is In

Many of us who try to live an examined life find something lacking, though usually nothing so serious that it requires professional help. This has given rise to an entire genre of books aimed at indulging our urge to open up our own psyches and tinker with the wiring. But the genre’s lack of scientific rigor drives University of Hertfordshire psychologist Richard Wiseman to distraction.

Freakonomics a Chart-Topper

On the list of illegally downloaded e-books, that is.
Here’s the Washington Post with the story, and here’s the N.Y. Times.
The underlying study claims that more than 9 millions copies of books were illegally downloaded last year.

Perfect Pitch

I recently attended my third Renaissance Weekend in Charleston, where among the normal cornucopia of ideas and fellowship, Sam Horn was incredibly generous in helping me sharpen my elevator pitch for a new project.

A Higher Purpose for That "Old Book" Smell

Scientists in the U.K. and Slovenia have developed a new, new technique for dating old books that’s far less damaging than the typical methods which require destroying part of the book.

Why My Students Don't Get Rebates

Ian Ayres recently posted about his returning to his students the royalties on his book that he assigned to them.
This has caused me trouble: one of my students read it and asked why I don’t do that as well for my little book, Economics Is Everywhere. I have done this before, when I assigned my labor economics text to a class of 35 students, but not in her class.

1899: A Very Good Year for Books

According to Google Books, it’s the year Raymond Chandler’s Killer in the Rain was published, along with Stephen King’s Christine and a landmark biography of Bob Dylan — not to mention the Italian editions of Freakonomics and Super Crunchers.

Read This If You Hate Meetings

This is the best explanation I have ever read of why I hate meetings so much, and why other people love them. If you are like me, you should save this link and simply forward it to anybody who asks if you’d like to “grab coffee” or “have a quick phone call to pick each other’s brains” or, God forbid, actually go somewhere and sit around a table with a lot of other people and have a proper meeting.

Writing With Constraints

Anu Garg, who runs the wonderful site, sends a weekly e-mail describing the theme of the words that will be featured in his word-a-day e-mails. This week’s theme is interesting for writers of every sort. (I would particularly like to see professional economists impose a few constraints.) Negativeland is the title of a slim novel I came across recently . . .

A New Kind of Book Club

Bram Stoker‘s Dracula is the story of a vampire’s reign of terror in Victorian England, told through letters and diary entries. This blog will post each entry on the day it appears in the book, so readers can experience the story “in real time.” Dracula started on May 3 and ends November 6. Think of it as a new series . . .

Steinbeck on the Crisis

I was reading John Steinbeck‘s Cannery Row last night, and I was really struck by how the following passage speaks to the forces behind our current economic predicament: “It has always seemed strange to me,” said Doc. “The things we admire in men — kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding, and feeling — are the concomitants of failure in our . . .

Print on Demand: Make That a Double

As if you needed another reason to avoid the bookstore, you can now buy your book from an Espresso Book Machine, which prints and binds (albeit without flashy cover imagery, photos, etc.) your book of choice in just a few minutes. There are about five of them in the U.S., reports Publishers Weekly, and they were recently launched in the . . .

Is Freakonomics Driving Unemployment?

Well, probably not. But at least one person has lost her job — albeit not an actual full-time, paying job — in a fracas over Freakonomics and other books. A few years back, a school-board member in suburban Chicago named Leslie Pinney wanted to pull nine books from the high school’s approved reading list. Among them were Freakonomics, The Things . . .

Kids Read for Free

If going to the library is a hassle and you don’t want to pay $20 for a children’s book, plop your kids in front of this website, which offers children’s stories for free. The stories are all original and written by the site’s proprietors, so you won’t find certain books there — but they may be the perfect therapy for . . .

How Restrictions Come Back to Haunt You

Photo: Library of Congress There is a review of Kat Long‘s The Forbidden Apple in last Sunday’s New York Times. The review describes a number of incidents where efforts to ban or restrict transactions in one market spilled over with negative consequences into a related market. To eliminate drinking on Sundays, New York City restricted it to hotels. In response, . . .

The Birth of Book Pirates?

| About 250 Kindle users are using Amazon’s tagging system to boycott e-books that cost over $10, claiming that an e-book is more “restricted in its use” than a paper book and should therefore cost less, reports Wired. One of the boycotters’ main complaints: you can’t lend out your e-books to friends. When digital music fans were confronted with this . . .

Better Off Dead: A Q&A With the Author of The Tyranny of Dead Ideas

Matt Miller It isn’t hard to think of ideas that were once considered conventional wisdom — “Women shouldn’t vote,” “People should be segregated by race” — but were eventually laid to rest. In his book The Tyranny of Dead Ideas: Letting Go of the Old Ways of Thinking to Unleash A New Prosperity, Matt Miller writes that the country’s biggest . . .

Literary Smackdown

| Every weekday in March, a judge at The Morning News has pitted against each other two novels published last year, with one emerging as the winner and going up against the next book. The winning book of the championship match will be announced tomorrow — and its author, per the website, will receive a live rooster. [%comments]

Our Daily Bleg: How to Manage a Sales Floor?

A reader named Eric Eilberg writes with the following bleg: My family has run Marlen Jewelers since 1914. Over the years a lot of things have changed, and the business has survived and prospered. We’re a freestanding building in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. We employ six full-time and one part-time sales associates. Dad is the third generation to run . . .