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What Working Class American Readers Should Know About the Authors Guild and Major Publishers

Updated on February 8, 2016

Digital Publishing

Before the digital age authors wrote books, then a Traditional Book Publishing Company bought the rights to the authors manuscript, published them, and books made their way to books stores and other retailers. Bestselling authors got paid big bucks by the Big Publishing Houses. By the year 2000 the digital revolution had begun to spread all over the world. Times changed and the world was introduced to the internet and books moved into the digital age. Today digital publishing is changing the landscape and presenting Authors and Traditional Publishers with enormous challenges.

I previously wrote a short article What Gives Certain Publishers the Right To Turn Off Kindle Text To Speech. The offender behind this idea was technically Big Publishers. A few Publishers pressured Amazon into disabling the kindle text to speech feature per title basis. The Authors Guild is staunch protesters against kindle text to speech. During my search for answers I found several articles about the Authors Guild. I made sure of quoting The Authors Guild website as a source because the Authors Guild scares me and I don’t want them to sue me for copyright infringement. The depth of this subject is mind-boggling and in this article I have only scratched the surface. I have looked into the Authors Guild extensively and the information I found is troublesome.

Who is the Authors Guild?

The first thing I did was check out the Authors Guild website and read their mission statement.

Our mission is to support working writers. We advocate for the rights of writers by supporting free speech, fair contracts, and copyright. We create community and we fight for a living wage.

The Guild advocates for authors on issues of copyright, fair contracts, free speech and tax fairness, and has initiated lawsuits in defense of authors’ rights, where necessary.

The Authors Guild mission statement suggests they are a distinctive organization. I explored the website thoroughly and while reading what they have to say I began to question their agenda. I read several articles and I believe many of their ideas are illogical. I believe folks need to read behind the lines. The site has several links such as Who We Are, Where we Stand, Whats New, Member Services, and Events. If you are interested go to their website read through and form your own opinions.

What is Copyright Infringement and the Authors Guild Agenda?

I always thought copyright infringement was when you stole someone else’s work and published it as your own. Downloading a new movie, music, and games from one of the Peer to Peer sharing networks is copyright infringement. There is much more to copyright law than the average person can understand. If you read the copyright law of the United States you probably need to be an Attorney to understand all that is involved. There is so much legal jargon about this subject it will make your head spin. The Authors Guild has a team of lawyers and I believe they use legal loop holes to interpret copyright infringement or lobby to change the copyright laws. Personally I think they are using copyright infringement as a way to advocate their own agenda.

In my opinion the average American cannot actually understand copyright infringement that is why the Authors Guild can get away with the stunts they are pulling:

Calling the Kindle Lending Library Nonsense- This is a service Amazon offers to their Prime members. Members can borrow one ebook a month

Objecting to the Text to Speech Feature on the Kindle E-Readers

Suing Google Books- In the lawsuit Authors Guild vs. Google they claimed the Google Library Project constituted mass copyright infringement

In a separate lawsuit they sued HathiTrust Digital Library which is a spinoff of the Google Books Library project. This included five suing five Universities.

The Authors Guild sided with Hachette Publishing during their dispute over the price of e-books-Hachette wanted to set their own prices but Amazon wanted to set the price of an e-book at $9.99

The Authors Guild has mentioned the Hachette/Amazon dispute up in their newest farce- Their Call to Investigate Amazon

Google Books and Amazon

I have been visiting the Authors Guild website frequently and here is what they wrote last week

It’s been a busy week for the Authors Guild Council. Our members have made public appearances discussing our efforts to take Authors Guild v. Google to the Supreme Court and Amazon’s threat to an open publishing marketplace, among other issues; they also took to Capitol Hill to boost the Guild’s 2016 legislative priorities.

They could not win in the lower courts so now they are taking their lawsuit against Google to the Supreme Court. I headed over to Google Books and in my opinion no one is obtaining any good books for free. I went through some of their full text books and I could not find a book I was interested in reading although other people might enjoy the books. I believe the Google Book Library Project is a wonderful concept. Books are a great place to find answers and Google Books provides an efficient way for readers and researchers to find books. What is the problem with making books more discoverable?

You are not going to get any new releases and it is highly doubtful you will be able to obtain a book in full text that has been published in the last 50 years. Google Books clearly states on their website the limitations. You can see books in Full View if the book is out of copyright, or if the publisher or author has asked to make the book fully viewable. They also offer the Limited Preview if the publisher or author has given them permission, you can see a limited number of pages from the book as a preview. Also there is The Snippet View, like a card catalog, shows information about the book plus a few snippets, a few sentences to display your search term in context. You would think that authors would want the world’s largest search engine to provide snippets to potential customers. If they like what they read there is a possibility they will buy the book.

I believe the Authors Guild chose to ignore the statements on the Google Books page.

What the Authors Guild has failed to mention is that both Google Books and Amazon recognize the fact it is up to the publisher or rights holder to determine which titles are eligible for their use.

The Authors Guild has called on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the business practices of Amazon saying that Amazon is abusing their dominance in the world of books.

According to the Authors Guild Amazon is guilty of creating a platform that has made buying books online easy and fast. They created the first good e-reader, and made it easy for authors to self publish. They go on to spout off more nonsense about how Amazon has driven down the price of books. What is wrong with these people? I believe everything mentioned above is a good thing especially for the poor working class of America.

Now the Authors Guild is calling Amazon a Book Monopoly and claiming they are a Threat to Freedom of Expression. They are claiming Amazon is manipulating the flow of books. The much larger issue in our view is the dominance that Amazon—through its artificially depressed book prices—wields over the book ecosystem, and the potential repercussions on the free flow of information and free expression.

I don’t even understand what that means. I can’t make an informed decision about what they are saying if I don’t understand it. I believe once again they are using this to further their own agenda. They don’t want anyone but their members and Traditional Publishing to have control over the book market.

I know that without authors we would not have books. I believe authors do have the right to have their works protected but the Authors Guild just wants to use this as an excuse to get the ball back in their court. The Authors Guild is claiming that the majority of authors are earning less money. Here is what I don’t understand. Most of the bestselling authors have made millions of dollars and I don’t believe that they are hurting for money because Google may have scanned snippets of their books or Amazon has the text to speech feature on their kindle.

The Traditional Publishing Houses

I can remember when my children were little and we were struggling as a working class family. I would go to Wal-Mart and see a new release title by one of my favorite authors. There was no way I could afford the hardcover price so I would go to my Public Library and get on the three month waiting list or wait six months to a year until it came out in paperback. Now thanks to Amazon keeping e-book prices affordable I have gained the opportunity to read thousands of books without waiting. Of course I do not have access to all the new release titles I want to read since a few Publishers have set the price at $14.99 which I cannot afford. When this is the case I head over to The Indiana Overdrive Library to see if they have a copy I can borrow.

Today most U.S. libraries allow patrons to check out digital books. As an e-reader owner I was excited to learn about the participation of public libraries in e-book lending. I was disappointed to find out the libraries are meeting resistance in pricing and availability from Major Publishers. When they are able to get e-books they come with conditions and high prices. Public libraries have always been considered pillars of the community and many of the big name Publishing Houses is treating them terrible. Publishers do not want books to be shared; they want people to buy them. I think this is a stupid choice on the part of the Publishers. You borrow an e-book from the library, read it and then you tell your friends and family about the book. They just might go buy it.

I have never written a novel so I am ignorant about the publishing world. I am no expert but I believe there is a high probability the Authors Guild is teaming up with certain Publishers so they can make more money. Amazon gave certain Publishers the right to decide if the kindle text to speech feature would be available on a per title basis. The Guild objected to the kindle text to speech feature. Amazon wants new release titles to be priced at $9.99 but certain Publishers disagree. The Guild is accusing Amazon of driving down book prices. It seems to me Major Publishers and the Authors Guild agrees on most everything. Coincidence, I don’t think so. More than likely Publishers are looking out for their own interests although it is a nice benefit they have the Authors Guild agreeing with most of their decisions.

My Opinion of the Authors Guild and Major Publishers

The digital age opened doors to the way we read and I think the Authors Guild and the big Publishing Houses are scared. The Authors Guild wants to sue everybody and anybody who they believe are getting in their way of being in control. They run to the government and cry copyright infringement. I believe if they get their way there will not be any more digital books to read. I believe the true reason the Authors Guild takes everyone to court is they do not want an open marketplace. They want to return to Traditional Publishing and control the book sales market. Great if you’re wealthy. Bad if you are poor. The rich man or woman can go to the Brick and Mortar bookstore and buy a brand new copy in hardback the day it released but the rest of us have to wait. Major Publishers and the Authors Guild do not care if the poor people of America can afford a book to read.

Each individual has the right to their own opinion. This subject is extensive and to the common lay person at times confusing. I am a college educated woman and I am confused. Perhaps I am not giving the Authors Guild side a fair shake but after reading what they have to say and how they want things to work they have certainly not made a very good impression on me. I know many folks have a beef with Amazon but personally I love Amazon, my kindle, and the services they provide. Amazon offers a great service trying to keep e-book prices low.

I think Traditional Publishing is wonderful. What author would not want their masterpiece published by one these great Publishing Houses? The problem is this is very hard to accomplish. Since Amazon offers self publishing I have discovered some great new talent. I believe if many authors could not self publish we as readers would miss a lot of great works. I believe the Authors Guild needs to realize they are making fools of themselves. Perhaps if they worked with Google Books and Amazon instead of against them, then every reader no matter what their economic status is would have a better reading experience. I think we all should take a good hard look at what the Authors Guild and Major Publishers are really trying to accomplish. We all loved the simpler times before the digital revolution changed the world but we can’t go back we can only move forward.

Tara Summers


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