Trudi Canavan’s ebook hunt and territorial rights

When it comes to fantasy, Aussie author Trudi Canavan is a familiar name. She’s a bestseller in Australia, UK, and elsewhere, and a couple of years ago, she made a big splash when Hachette headhunted her from HarperVoyager with a million dollar deal.

Trudi has a good backlist of fantasy trilogies, and today, she went on a hunt to find the ebook versions of those books. Like many authors at the top of the totem pole, she signed over her electronic rights to her publishers (because, really, a few years ago, they were far less important than they are today). Therefore, her publishers have full control over her ebooks, including pricing and availability.

Trudi’s hunt for her ebooks is here.

Disturbingly for a bestseller, many of her books weren’t available as ebooks. Amazon (USA) had only two ebooks (both the second in their respective series!), as did Kobo and Apple’s iBookstore. Intriguingly, none of them had the same two ebooks. By my count, Canavan has at least ten books in print. Ten books! And the major e-tailers only had two titles each!

This further highlights the point that the big publishers are struggling to cope with the rapid shift towards ebooks. It’s a bloody shame, actually, and I’m loath to engage in publisher-bashing as they’ve done a fantastic job for decades, but if they have any hope of surviving beyond the 2010s, they need to lift their game.

Another issue that Canavan raised was that of territorial rights. Having participated in the Parallel Importation debacle in 2009, this is an issue near and dear to me, but with online purchasing dramatically increasing, the goal posts are constantly shifting on the issue.

Canavan said:

Most frustrating of all to me, as a customer, is that none of these sites indicate if any of the books are available to Australian customers, and I don’t want to have to sign up to Amazon or Kobo and attempt to buy my own book to find out. Territorial rights issues are not going to go away, so retailers really ought to be giving customers this information so they aren’t completely put off by the eBook buying experience.

Right now, there are still some restrictions in place to prevent Aussies from buying certain ebooks. I noticed this when I uploaded my own Kindle ebooks last week. Amazon provided the option of restricting territorial rights. The concept of ebook territorial rights seems antiquated to me. Yes, it works for print books, but the internet is the great leveller, is it not?

I don’t have all the facts, nor am I in the right frame of mind to properly articulate a territorial rights discussion right now, but this post will serve as a placeholder until then. However, if you have a comment on ebook territorial rights, feel free to share!

4 Comments

  1. Hi Shane. Thanks for the link and post about my little ebook investigation.

    I do feel I should point out that I say in my post that, on the evidence I have, the availability problem is NOT the fault of my publishers. In fact, I know one of my publishers is looking into the situation. They’re in the business of selling books, so it’s as much a concern to them as it is to me that the books aren’t in the shops.

    I don’t yet know why the retailers aren’t stocking all of my books, so for the moment I’m assuming it’s unintentional and simply because their ebook stores are new and their system for acquiring ebooks is a bit haphazard right now. I don’t believe it is a pricing issue because the books they do have in stock are the same prices as the ones they don’t.

    • Shane Jiraiya Cummings says:

      Hi Trudi,

      Thanks for stopping by. I found your post to be both interesting and illuminating. Also a little disturbing. If your bestselling books are being misplaced, then what hope is there for the rest of us?

      I suspect the retailers may not be to blame, though. In my experience publishing on Amazon and Smashwords, I found the ebooks I uploaded to appear very quickly (within 24 hours) on their retail stores.

      I hope your experience is the exception rather than the rule. Good luck hunting up those missing ebooks!

  2. Hmm, so you upload them yourself – of course you do. I must admit, I didn’t picture someone at a publishing company uploading books one by one directly to retailers sites, but sending blocks of books for the retailer to then place on their site. I also imagined retailers like Borders and A&R operating more like their bricks and mortar bookstores, choosing what they sell, rather than being like Etsy or Ebay.

    • Shane Jiraiya Cummings says:

      Hi Trudi,

      From what I understand, it’s very much the opposite of a bricks and mortar store. It’s in e-tailers’ best interests to have as many books uploaded as possible so they can offer the widest range – and without a limitation on space like a physical bookstore, that’s exactly what they can do. Which is why I’m incredibly surprised you couldn’t find all your books online. Best of luck in sorting it all out.

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