Public domain books being blocked by Amazon; silly marketing decision?
August 31, 2009 | 3:39 pm
By Paul Biba
I just received the following email from Laura McDonald of Girlebooks about Amazon blocking one of her public domain books. It seems to me to be another example of Amazon inexperience in the ebook area and a case of making a foolish marketing decision without thinking the facts through. The correspondence is below and it has been reprinted with Laura’s permission.
I’ve recently encountered an interesting situation when selling my ebooks through the Amazon Kindle Store. I thought you might find it interesting too.
The ebooks I sell are 99% public domain. The difference in our ebooks is that we read each one we post and correct errors in the text, hand format them, and create new covers. They are free on our website http://girlebooks.com and I also post them for a minimal fee in the Kindle Store and some other ebook outlets.
I’ve found that people do appreciate the extra effort we put into creating the ebooks, making the covers, and reviewing the books. People who want the ease of using whispernet to put ebooks on their Kindles don’t seem to mind the fee we charge for them in the Kindle store. And I’m sure a lot of people buy our ebooks in the Kindle store because they looked nicer than the other ones available, whether they knew the ebooks were also available for free on our site or not.
The point is that Amazon apparently is starting to block our ebooks from sale in the Kindle store because they are public domain. Whether they will also do this for big publishers who sell public domain books remains to be seen. I’m thinking not. I don’t have the whole story of course, but you can see correspondence I have had from them below. Thanks!
We’re working on a policy and procedure change to fix a customer experience problem caused by multiple copies of public domain titles being uploaded by a multitude of publishers. For an example of this problem, do a search on “Pride and Prejudice” in the Kindle Store. The current situation is very confusing for customers as it makes it difficult to decide which “Pride and Prejudice” to choose from. As a result, at this time we are not accepting additional public domain titles through DTP, including the following:
Whose Body? (Girlebooks Classics) by Dorothy Sayers
If you believe that we have wrongly identified this title as a public domain title, and you are the copyright holder or are authorized to sell it by the copyright holder, then please reply to firstname.lastname@example.org with appropriate documentation of your e-book rights.
Please note: This e-mail was sent from an address that cannot accept incoming e-mail. If you have any questions or concerns, please write to us at email@example.com
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Just looking at my backend books list and I see that Whose Body? has been blocked. Can you let me know why? This text is public domain and freely available at Project Gutenberg, so it can’t be a copyright problem. If there is another problem, please let me know.