eBook publishing is, as the term implies, the digital publication of books and written material, which are usually sold via a Publisher’s website, though these days, there is an increasing trend towards author self-publishing with the availability of publishing software and “Apps”.
The numerous types of digital format which may be offered for sale include CD and DVD disks, (usually accompanying the hard-copy version), electronic download of an eBook or audiobook from a website (e.g. Amazon Kindle, iBooks, similar to iTunes for music from Apple), and other forms of digital formats suitable for streamed, shared file, or wireless distribution methods as well the option of print-on-demand.
Digital publication has now become commonplace for a whole range of material which enables published works to be readily accessible worldwide online to the greatest number of readers in the shortest space of time at the lowest cost. It is also a useful and very cost effective method to provide updates to existing material, which is particularly useful in scientific, medical and legal text books. Thus there is a need for specific contracts to clarify the relationship between Publisher and Author. This will become even more important when more publishers introduce subscription-type services which offers readers numerous eBooks in a subscription package which is at a lower cost per eBook thus the author will also receive less.
Where the contract is drafted for the benefit of the Author, as in this Contract, the Author will not want to grant exclusive worldwide rights to the Publisher but rather keep more control of the exploitation of the Author’s own copyright material. This Contract is drafted more in the format of a contract for services for the Publisher to provide development, publication and marketing services to the Author rather than a traditional publishing licence. This contract allows the Author to be solely in charge of and have final approval of the entire content and production of the eBook including the title, style and design as well as the method of distribution It also enables the Author to approve the Publisher’s marketing and promotion plans to ensure the widest possible exposure for the eBook to the greatest number of potential purchasers worldwide.
One of the most significant clauses for the Author to negotiate is to ensure proper payment for their material. Whilst in a traditional publishing agreement, the Publisher will pay the Author a “royalty” expressed as a % (usually much less than 50% and more likely to be 5%–25%) of the net sales revenue collected by the Publisher, the payment clause in this Contract requires all sales revenue to be paid to the Author and the Author in turn pays the Publisher a percentage “commission” based on net sales revenue received by the Author for the specific title of eBook on the specific website of the Publisher. This narrows the source of revenue to the specific material the Publisher itself has produced and is marketing. This is certainly the payment mechanism which every Author would wish for but, it has to be said, would be unusual for any big publishers to agree to do so and the payment clause in Contract 79 is more likely.