Publishers have responded to Andrew Wylie’s plans to sell ebook editions of classic titles exclusively through Amazon: They are not pleased. Wylie’s decision to deal directly with Amazon in launching Odyssey Editions cut publishing houses out of the process entirely, staking out a bold position on the long-ambiguous question of backlist ebook rights. Random House—which had claimed digital rights to many of the books Wylie gave to Amazon—has announced that it will no longer deal with Wylie.
Random House spokesman Stuart Applebaum said in a statement:
The Wylie Agency’s decision to sell e-books exclusively to Amazon for titles which are subject to active Random House agreements undermines our longstanding commitments to and investments in our authors, and it establishes this Agency as our direct competitor. Therefore, regrettably, Random House on a worldwide basis will not be entering into any new English-language business agreements with the Wylie Agency until this situation is resolved.
“It is an extraordinarily bad deal for writers, illustrators, publishers, other booksellers, and for anyone who believes that books should be as widely available as possible,” he wrote.
Jeff Jarvis, speaking from a tech perspective, voiced similar concerns:
Fragmenting content such that one has to buy one device to read one author and another to read another is blind to the needs and realities of the market. It’s dealmaking for dealmaking’s sake. . . .
In the early days of content on mobile, we saw this game play out: Carriers made exclusive deals to get content in hopes that would get users to buy their phones instead of the other guys’. Didn’t work. A phone’s a phone. A browser’s a browser. A book’s a book.
And an e-book better damned well be an e-book, or books and authors and publishers and agents are all screwed.
Mr. Wylie said he was taken by surprise by the announcement and was not sure how he would respond to Random House. “I’m going to think about it a little bit,” he said, adding that he had not spoken with Random House on Thursday. “We take it seriously, as do the authors we represent. This area of discussion and negotiation needs to be resolved.”
“Andrew Wylie has decided to become a publisher. Welcome, Andrew,” Sargent wrote. “I’ll be knocking on his door shortly, asking him for dues to the AAP.”