When is a book out of print?

More on Simon & Schuster’s power grab

…with the advent of technologies like print-on-demand, publishers have been able to reduce the number of back copies that they keep in warehouses. Simon & Schuster, which until now has required that a book sell a minimum number of copies through print-on-demand technology to be deemed in print, has removed that lower limit in its new contract.

In effect, that means that as long as a consumer can order a book through a print-on-demand vendor, that book is still deemed in print, no matter how few copies it sells.

The Authors Guild says that is not fair. “If a book is only available in print-on-demand, it certainly means the publisher isn’t doing much to promote the book,” said Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild. “We’re not against the technology; we’re just against the technology being used to lock up rights.”

Mr. Aiken said that authors often ask to take back the rights of out-of-print books so they can place them with new publishers and give their work new life. He cited the example of Paula Fox, a novelist who had six out-of-print novels when Jonathan Franzen, the author of “The Corrections,” cited her work in an essay in Harpers Magazine. Ms. Fox took back the rights for her novels, resold them to W. W. Norton and revived her career.

For mid-list authors (and people like me, who aspire to be mid-list), The Authors Guild has been able to bring many OOP books back to life with its Backinprint.com program, which has also made Lazaruses out of neglected works by masters like Mary McCarthy’s The Oasis and Thornton Wilder’s American Characteristics.

(Thanks to the MSM for letting me be a parasite and cite it on this site.)

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