Publishing Electronic Books
As a general rule, an author or publisher can assert copyright over electronic works, but documents published on the internet can be copied by anyone with access. The thing to remember is that provided other people cannot change the work, and provided that an author can receive payment for the published work, then copying the published document does not cause a problem. In fact, copying the published work can ensure far wider publicity.
Preventing the Book From Being Changed
There are now several document viewer systems available that allow a book to be published as a single file that can be downloaded and viewed with a viewer program, but the file itself cannot be changed.
Several companies are addressing the payment issue with the use of credit cards or electronic cash, but these methods are mainly for use in purchase of goods. Other items like music, writing and art are much harder to ensure payment because the file is on the web, and anyone can down load it.
However, the publishing industry could take a leaf out of the software industry's book (pardon the pun), using the shareware model. Under this model, an evaluation version is freely available and may be freely copied. However, if people want the full version they must part with money to obtain it. There are some books available now using this process.
So a writer could load the first chapter of his/her novel onto the web, with a note that upon sending a sum of money to the author you will receive the full version, perhaps printed and bound, or on disk. If the book is published using the Publisher Suite from Fugue Software, the entire book can be distributed with part of it being password protected. Only those who pay the fee to receive the password can read the protected chapters.
Payments can be made by cash, cheque (check), or credit cards with very little problem. In order to receive credit card payments you need to make a Credit Card Merchant arrangement with a bank.
WarningAuthors, do not sign away your on-line rights when you sign a publishing deal. Have an experienced entertainment lawyer check things first. You could be doing yourself out of a very lucrative market in the years to come!
NotePublishers are not doing you a favor by publishing your work. They think they will make money out of it, that's the only reason. Make sure you get your share!
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